Archive for January, 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth about Learning Chinese

Translation of a Tuluotuo Post

Beginning of translation –>

Once in a while, I see two American Chinese people. They are both originally from mainland China, went to America after their university education, got a doctor’s academic degree, and hence stayed in America to become Americans. They have become older, can count as people of achievements and they frequently publish books. They hold some lectures in mainland China every year, just like Huaqiaos returning to their country as foreign experts.

I heard that many Americans learns Chinese, but only few learn it well. I’m afraid they are children from Chinese households. I listened to two experts from America and I then understood the reason.

Is it because Chinese is difficult? No.

Ms Zhang, an expert who doesn’t look really much different from a Granny in the park here, says that American children are really squeamish – learning pressure of the kind prevalent in China doesn’t work in America. Once a child is not happy, American parents advise the headmaster. Then the headmaster has a word with the teacher, and this will influence the teacher’s bonus. If a teacher is only temporarily employed, he or she can prepare for an early leave. Many of those who teach Chinese in America are temporarily employed.

Therefore, to protect their own rice bowls, Chinese teachers have to resort to “Happy Chinese” (快乐汉语) or “Monkey King Chinese” (美猴王汉语). Compare Chinese characters to the English alphabet – want to scare the kid?

So what you do is, you teach pinyin. Some children have learned Chinese for four years, but don’t know even one character. Ms Zhang’s child still took [his or her] exams in a Chinese primary school, but apart from speaking fluent Mandarin with some Henan dialect within, her child is illiterate – without knowledge of Chinese characters. As the teacher came from Henan province, Ms Zhang didn’t speak much Chinese with her child, and her child came from school speaking Henan dialect.

A Chinese teacher a taught first-form primary school student Chinese. Her father, an educational service official, took a strong interest in his daughter’s learning progress and had hired the Chinese teacher as a home tutor. He heard her teaching his daughter this line: “他有3个苹果,你有四个苹果,你比他多多少?” He asked the tutor what it meant. “Oh,” she cheerfully replied, “that’s easy. It’s how many apples do you have more than he has?” The educational official, on hearing this string of Chinese-style English, almost fainted. “What? Such a difficult question? Even an adult’s brain needs to take several bends to understand that – how can you teach that to a child?”

Professor Ying has taught Chinese in America for several years. Recently, he prepared some “Happy Chinese” method, named “Rhythmical Chinese”. He gave us a little demonstration of his researching result, like replacing the line “I want to eat” (我要吃饭, wo yao chi fan). You can’t simply say that. First you have to add some rap music and to speak along its rhythm: “Chi fan, chi fan, wo yao chi fan” several times. It’s said that American children like this method. Maybe they do, but that comes at a price. In the end, the child may have learned Chinese for one year and can only say “Yao Ming is taller than I”. This is a comparative line, it’s rather difficult within the Chinese language, so professor Ying has to proceed orderly, and after one year, with luck, if the child is still sufficiently interested, teacher Ying can teach him or her this incredible line!

With lifetime employment, Ms Zhang and Mr Ying are still in no bad position, and they have social insurance all included. But Ms Wang is in no such easy position. She’s from Beijing, she studied geology with a doctoral degree, but found no work. So she became a housewife. Now her child attends school, and she wanted to get back to work, but finding a job is still not easy. [Correction/Update: Fortunately, more or less, her idiomatic Beijing dialect helped her land the job.]  She is now employed as a Chinese teacher, but it is still only temporary. Once a child or the headmaster isn’t happy with her, she can lose her job any time.

Like other teachers, she doesn’t dare to teach characters. She practices colloquial language, thanks to pinyin, making the kids believe that Chinese writing is based on the alphabet, and that Chinese isn’t difficult. But give them a Chinese newspaper, and they are stunned.

The current economic crisis should be no problem for Ms Zhang. As for Ms Wang, I’m not so sure.

<– End of translation


Footnotes and Remarks

Corrections are welcome.


I don’t feel with Ms Wang as much as Tuluotuo does, and may explain later. But what Tuluotuo writes about “Happy Chinese” and many childrens’ inability to cope with some stress, it’s true for Germany, too. Inconveniently true.

– JR

Related (update): What it takes to learn, and to teach, Febr 3

Friday, January 30, 2009

The REAL Quote of the Week

No happy farts

from a halfhearted ass.

— alledgedly by Martin Luther

(dedicated to two well-intentioned but sorry-ass blogs the name of which shall not be revealed and which have never been mentioned in these posts so far.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Quotes of the Week or Month

If your whole position on a particular issue can be summed up in a bumper sticker then it’s time to worry.

Jeremiah Jenne »

(The above line fits neatly into a bumper sticker.)


Further Examples from Daily Life:

Our Jesus Lives! – Pr. Renjit Samuel Ambanattu

My Jesus is a Grave Robbery! – JR

Friday, January 30, 2009

Chinese Tourists in Taiwan

Last year’s visiting numbers from China were lower than expected: 61,000 visitors from July to December 2008 (about 300 per day). Up to 3,000 visits per day had been expected, and that had also been the official maximum limit, reports the VoA.

To encourage more travels, China increased the number of travel permissions for twelve provinces, the maximum duration of stay was increased from ten to fifteen days, and Taiwan has pledged to gradually make travelling formalities easier.

This year’s Spring festival is the first peak travel season after these agreements were put into place. The average is reportedly more than 1,000 visitors a day, and they could become more than 10,000 visitors during the 9 days of Spring festival.

Ali Shan and Sun Moon Lake are hot spots. Almost 95% of Chinese visitors have been there. The rapid transit system and book stores are also places of interest.

Issues of complaints are the pre-planned shopping points. The VoA article doesn’t elaborate, but 定点购物 means something like fixed-location shopping. To avoid lawsuits and disturbing cross-strait harmony, JR will not elaborate. Fixed-location shopping is something all-inclusive tourists from everywhere in every place will be familiar with. In total, the expected 10,000 visitors during the nine holidays might be good for earnings of 500 mn NT Dollars.

Some Chinese were also missing their traditional New Year’s Evening Show (New Year’s Eve). Some travellers cut their sight-seeing short and returned to the restaurant to watch Taiwan’s equivalent show, but there wasn’t any.

Nothing but a barren island.

Friday, January 30, 2009

America, China, and the Turds

Defense secretary Robert Gates was confirmed as defense secretary once again in December. Hilary Clinton has been confirmed by the Senate as America’s new foreign secretary. She had some more-than-just-constructive words for her country’s future relationship with China:

China is a critically important actor in a changing global
a positive and cooperative relationship with China, one where and strengthen our ties on a number of issues, and candidly differences where they persist.
But this not a one-way effort – much of what we will do depends choices China makes about its future at home and abroad.

It was her husband in the White House who helped bringing about Congressional agreement to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. That probably lays out the baseline for the new administration’s foreign policies toward China.

Financial secretary Timothy Geithner on the other hand will need to do some polishing on his choice of words before being as nice to China as his predecessor Paulson used to be.

The most entertaining Senate confirmation hearing could have been that of Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Obama’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Pacific Command Chief from 1999 to 2002 – if only it hadn’t been in written:

Q (Sen. Bond, Republican): “A number of negative comments about United States policy toward Taiwan have been attributed to you in the past — I believe at one time, you referred to Taiwan as the turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations… what is your view on U.S. policy towards Taiwan?”

A: “It is absolutely incorrect that I ever referred to Taiwan itself as the ‘turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations. Whoever gave this account to the press was maliciously attempting to portray me as a supporter of China at the expense of Taiwan”.
“I did in fact use the too-colorful phrase ‘tossing a turd in the punchbowl’ in a closed meeting in 2000, but the phrase referred to a specific action by a former Taiwanese government official that had been taken without consulting the United States.”

distastefulAll in writing and not spontaneously. What a pity. Anyway, he’s confirmed now, too. Maybe at one of the press conferences to come, someone might care to ask a follow-up question: How long does it take a turd in a punchbowl to sink? Just curious.

Secretary of Defence Robert Gates discussed his ongoing institutional initiatives in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, and shortly touched on China (pdf document, page 4):

As we know, China is modernizing across the whole of its armed forces. The areas of greatest concern are Chinese investments and growing capabilities in cyber-and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, submarines, and ballistic missiles. Modernization in these areas could threaten America’s primary means of projecting power and helping allies in the Pacific: our bases, air and sea assets, and the networks that support them.

We have seen some improvement in the U.S.-Chinese security relationship recently. Last year, I inaugurated a direct telephone link with the Chinese defense ministry. Military to military exchanges continue, and we have begun a strategic dialogue to help us understand each other’s intentions and avoid potentially dangerous miscalculations.
As I’ve said before, the U.S. military must be able to dissuade, deter, and, if necessary, respond to challenges across the spectrum – including the armed forces of other nations.On account of Iraq and Afghanistan, we would be hard pressed at this time to launch another major ground operation. But elsewhere in the world, the United States has ample and untapped combat power in our naval and air forces, with the capacity to defeat any adversary that committed an act of aggression – whether in the Persian Gulf, on the Korean Peninsula, or in the Taiwan Strait. The risk from these types of scenarios cannot be ignored, but it is a manageable one in the short- to mid-term.

There may be surprises in the pipeline during the first months of America’s new government in its relationship with Beijing – but few lapses. Both Clinton and Gates have been there before.

Meantime, Rebecca MacKinnon has some advice for the new president:

… if you really want to take U.S.-China relations to a new strategic level that rises above the day-to-day issues, you need to find new ways to engage the Chinese people themselves — not just their government.

The funny thing about blogging and media is that many players have such short memories. Bill Clinton engaged the Chinese people themselves long ago.

But if Barack Obama wants to do likewise, he may have newer technologies at hand.

And if he should decide to run a blog, he shouldn’t lose interest as quickly as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did. His Excellency’s most recent post in English is of December 2007. [Update, June 20, 2010 – the link is no longer available –]

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Political Corruption in Taiwan?

You can crucify <b><i>that one</i></b>

You can crucify THAT one...

Not only Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-bian is in the dock, writes the Economist in its January 24th edition – the judiciary is, too. (printed ed., page 56)

That may be a bit strong. But Taiwan’s judiciary’s credibility is at stake, and some of its players apparently aren’t aware of that. According to the Economist,

prosecutors involved in Mr Chen’s case performed a comic skit at a party at the justice ministry. To the glee of the audience, one is said to have mimicked the former president’s arrest by raising handcuffed hands above her head and shouting slogans. Shown on television, this outraged many.

And certainly not only fans of the former president.

An open letter by scholars and writers from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia to president Ma Ying-jeou describes what makes them feel doubtful about the proceedings against Chen Shui-bian – and the incidents surrounding mainland chief negotiator Chen Yunlin’s visit to Taiwan last year.

We appeal to you, Mr. President, to restore the credibility of the judicial system in Taiwan and ensure that your government and its judiciary and parliamentary institutions safeguard the full democracy, human rights and freedom of expression, for which the Taiwanese people have worked so hard during the past two decades.

Besides Chen Shui-bian, another former president, Lee Teng-hui, is also under investigation, according to the Taipei Times of December 27 of last year. He fell out with the KMT after leaving office and was expelled from the KMT for his role in founding the independence movement Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), which forms part of the Pan-Green Coalition alongside Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party. And in March 2008, he endorsed the DPP’s presidential nominee, Frank Hsieh Chang-ting.

But president Ma seems to move towards his old ex-chairman. Both Ma and vice president Vincent Siew paid visits to the elder statesman this month “to discuss the economy”. Lee will probably stay out of trouble, to call on institutes of theology in order to enrich his spiritual life.

Imagine Lee Teng-hui in the dock. The former chairman of what is or was the world’s wealthiest party would have stories to tell. Too many stories. No matter if proven guility, or innocent himself.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Net Nanny: True Friendship needs no Communication

Dear Net Nanny,

No unhealthy stuff

No unhealthy stuff

I have a problem. When travelling, I sometimes have to use computers which don’t write or even read Chinese characters. In one case, I was confronted with the excuse that Chinese websites carry too many worms and must not be viewed, because they can harm the computer.  But I feel that this is an encroachment on my freedom of information. What should I do?




you are a useless blogger. It doesn’t matter if you get access to real information, or if you remain brainwashed by the Dailai’s website, the BBC, or CNN, or the Taipei Times, unless you join the productive forces of the World Harmonization Movement and add supportive comments there.

Such platforms are available both in Chinese and English. They are doing a heckuvajob. Your Chinese sucks anyway, but that doesn’t matter. Think of your former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. He doesn’t even speak English. Angela Merkel speaks both English and Russian. But who is the Great Friend of the Russian People?

Besides, the Chinese motherland is getting stronger by the day. We are already bigger than you. All computers in your country will speak Chinese very soon.

Think about it, and prove in your actions that you are becoming more harmonious.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Baozuitun: The Right to be Vulgar – and its Denial

No one can harm another person by being vulgar.  I cannot recall any incident of an ethnic group becoming extinct because there are too many prostitutes among them, or because they are too sexually active.

A translation under the Jaracanda Tree »

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