The Sincerest Form of Flattery

I’ve just had a week on the road with a bunch of guys, a sports team, to be a little more precise. I’ve been coaching them for about eighteen months and we’re all on pretty familiar terms, but this is the first time we’ve all been away together.

We travelled from home in NE China, down to the South – 30 hours plus on the train. Plenty of time for everyone to get into the tour spirit.

Having played various sports for most of my life and having been on a number of tours, I ought to be pretty familiar with how these things pan out.  And sure enough, this tour was like most others; plenty of laddish humour, lots of card playing, a certain amount of drinking. People take up various roles in the group; the worrier, the flirt, the joker, the quiet one, the leader, the guy who can never find his stuff, the one who’s always last to breakfast.

Then there’s always tour language. Maybe someone says something really dumb on the first day and it becomes a catchphrase for the tour…

…or maybe one of the group has an unusual accent and this becomes much imitated.

And so it was. They all did their impersonations of me. Some just occasionally, some near incessantly. It was kind of amusing; sometimes flattering, sometimes pretty uncomfortable, but mainly just intriguing to hear how I sound to them. I only managed to capture a few phrases on the final day and here they are:




[Descriptions of above recordings added, 11 Aug 2010. Sima]

I’d love to pretend that I never say any of these things and that it certainly sounds nothing like me, but I guess the big question is…

Is this clear evidence of girlspeak?

But beyond that, does anyone have any experience of being mimicked? Is there a general comic accent which most people would recognise as the foreigner speaking Chinese? Would anyone care to describe what they hear in the above recordings that sounds foreign?

Phelps on Grammatical Gender in Mandarin

Wait — you haven’t heard of his ground-breaking research? With credit to Street-Smart Language Learning for the Fox News link and some fun analysis, along with a generous hat tip to MandarinMnemonics for linking to it with the best headline on this meme: “Michael Phelps, Rosetta Stoned?“, I’m pleased to introduce you to a side of Michael Phelps you probably have not been exposed to. Fast forward to 0:50 for the crux of the analysis. Continue…

NBA wants to fā cái

From a business standpoint, I don’t fault the NBA at all for playing to the China crowd. Naturally they get a player to try out some Mandarin

video here

(h/t truthfromfacts — I’d never find the video on my own, since, truthbetold, I have a hard time telling one ballgame from another)

Two moderately noteworthy items from the video:

  1. Dwayne Wade, to my ear, gets most of the tones right most of the time in his multiple renditions of gōngxǐ fācái. Beginner’s luck? Without any further info, I’d argue not. He might just have an ear for this kind of thing. There’s no doubt that most complete beginners get the tones completely wrong when trying out a Mandarin phrase.
  2. The newscaster is from… where? You have to watch to the end of the video clip to here her switch to Mandarin. My guess, purely on accent, is that she did not grow up in China, although Mandarin might be a native language for her.

I seem to remember, but can’t find it now, a good post someone did recently about how it’s silly to learn gongxi facai if you’re coming to the north. If anyone remembers this, I’d appreciate a link.