Posts tagged ‘grammar’

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ask SoSo: Oh, Huanghe?

Tags: China (中国), brilliant accomplishments (辉煌成就), English (英文)

Answer (答案):

Be refreshed by the cool breeze of autumn, day high cloud Dan, float in this flower fruit we welcome the birthday having come to motherland fifty-six-year-old , can feel very happy with everybody with Zhu Guo Qing , me in fragrant season. In here, I need to be proud the field says to motherland mother: I love you, China! Oh! Huanghe River Yangtse River, gallop ten thousands li, you have fed a what splendid nation! Splendid history for 5000 years , the China civilization having good reputation in the whole world, are enough to let person praise it as the peak of perfection. The river that the motherland , the stream trickling sluggishly pass through is your elegant long hair I see, age-old long continuous kop is your forceful backbone. You have buried treasure all over the mountains and plains , you landscape having much posture elegant and pretty , you have the Palace Museum resplendent and magnificent, even though having the Great Wall that you have to extend Wan Ting, eternal, there are eight famine in the horizontal stroke. You still have many. . . . . . On your vast territory, the all people of Chinese descent that generation once replaces has created splendid east civilization with one’s own hands. We could not forget but, the Chinese nation went through the mill also once , several classics were sad, our motherland mother was doubly bullied and humiliated and humiliated also once. We forget without end, garden Ming garden flame, forgets the hat detaining “the sick man of East Asia ” on every Chinese relations with people without end , forgets park entrance “Chinese and the dog enter the inner ” brand without end not to , forgets blood of 300,000 fellow countrymen of Nanjing dyes red Yangtse River without end. But the earth is moaning , Huanghe River is weeping, Chinese People is unable to be overwhelmed under pressure forever also. The tiger door sells a cigarette having revealed anti-aggression prelude of Chinese sons and daughters. The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom banner , shy Constitutional Reform and Modernization of 1898 thunder, broadsword of soldier of Boxer , the Chinese Revolution of 1911 shot, none does not indicate to the whole world: The Chinese nation cannot be insulted , Chinese People can not be bullied. The May 4th Movement loud shouts in support , Communist Party of China’s be founded, are like the shy thunder scarification night sky more. The cypress slope “, sparks of fire, can set the prairie ablaze ” from Nanchang to Jinggang Mountains , from Yan’an to the west. Chinese People uses really millet plus rifles have shown a new splendid Chinese, our this east giant has stood up finally! Go by disturbances in 56 , after making great efforts to built a strong state for 54, our motherland rises like a mountain in the east of the world. Chinese People is enjoying a time of national peace and order having no precedent. The socialism with Chinese characteristics steamer cleaves through the waves , holds head high moving forward! Already very much, schoolmates , our Chinese big and powerful, but can not forget, our great cause of reunification is not completed , international anti-China forces has not given up the wild ambition to subjugate our country , Japan brings the water to sb.’s mouth , can not forget more to Diaoyu Island of our country, quilt of our country embassy explodes in 1999, blood of the fellow countryman tell us: We are not enough big and powerful. Hardships and dangers in make one’s way , the lofty sentiments being arousing us fighting spirit new 1000, new century , new starting point, the Sixteenth National Congress has been sounded march towards new clarion call by us, hundreds of millions forward new Chinese People targets advance bravely.

回答人的补充   2009-12-18 18:19

Monday, August 30, 2010

Languages: no particular Constraints

The languages our elders teach us don’t constrain our minds. But when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways, Guy Deutscher suggests.

Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.
(Ludwig Wittgenstein)


May the Almighty Buddha give me Faith, Nov 7, 2008
Trying to Translate, Nov 7, 2008

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In Praise of Chinglish

Chinglish is usually considered to be an abreviation of Chinese English, Chinese-style grammar combined with English-style vocabulary.

Chinglish一般被认为是Chinese English的简称,中式的语法和英式的词汇组合而成。

Youth Weekend (青年周末) probably refers to this post by The Guardian, and asks if Chinglish needs a guardian, or if it should be finished off, in accordance with the wishes of the Shanghai authorities, in the run-up to next years Shanghai Expo. If one feels that Chinglish is an embarrassment for cultural self-confidence (尴尬的文化自信), Youth Weekend says, one should consider that it may be really vigorous and culturally creative. At home and abroad, Chinglish had its fans (粉丝), and even its fanatical followers. It might amount to alternative pop (另类流行).

Youth Weekend apparently shares the view that Chinglish is a language in its own right, and an amusing one at that. It says that in May, an (unnamed) mainland Chinese website organized a competition of the greatest – or most comical (爆笑) Chinglish lines. 7,000 votes produced the Chinglish Top Ten, to be viewed over there »


(Possibly) Related:
Chinese Pidgin English, Wikipedia
“Chinese risks becoming a hodgepodge language…”,, September 13, 2004
“A Dressing-Down of China’s English Language Policy at the National Level”, China Daily comments thread, August 22, 2003

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, December 19, 2008

Learning Faster?

Learning to read and write took more time when I was a child. Nowadays, it happens faster. But students hardly ever reach the perfection we had to reach to achieve good marks in school.

Does that hurt? Not necessarily. Orthography in the 1970s and 1980s were probably not so different from Imperial exams for would-be officials to the Chinese Court. Every error counted against you, even though more perfection didn’t necessarily lead to more efficient or simply better communication.It isn’t only about efficiency. It’s true that one can make better use of ones lifetime when the choice of perfection or that-will-do lies with the individual. And maybe less perfection can also be more efficient.

But it starts looking both worrisome and funny when someone writes a text for a song which is full of flaws, as I’ve seen happening recently. Nice tune, not a bad message, but hilarious in the way it was put. People whose writing sucks have started thinking of themselves as poets. Some of my grandparents did better in writing than them (some of their old letters are really beautiful), after only four to six years of school education – but they weren’t even aware of their communicational skills.

Assessing the value of an essay written in English by students these days can become a real nuisance under such conditions – especially when they hold their own skills in such high esteem. I’m pretty sure that their options for expressing their views in English are becoming smaller, year after year. Good for them that they don’t realize this. After all, their ability to describe and understand abstract matters in German is becoming smaller, too.

That doesn’t matter if you want to become a financial analyst. A cabaret artist recently quoted one: There’s a lot of imagination in this share price. Yes, that was a few months before the crash.

For sure, there was more imagination in the chart and its backgrounds than in the guy’s description of it. But he was on TV anyway. Business economists will re-invent the world without much imagination, just with a lot of hot air which will lead to another Big Bang: We’ve got to expand!


Where is the border between perfectionism and reason? I’m wondering if we are teaching and learning the right things for our times’n places. I’m off to designing an imaginative curriculum now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Beauty within Boredom – Learning English

The more I’m teaching, the more I’m thinking about the old people who were teaching me when I was growing up. Teaching languages comes with as little grammar as possible these days. That is a directive that is even compulsory for teachers in certain educational institutions. Grammatical errors made by the students have to be tolerated and mostly ignored, as long as the intented meaning of the clause still comes across.

Of course, to heed the directive doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own opinion about it. I believe that there are natural learners of English – those who watch CNN or BBC World at home or – even better – listen to radio stations like the BBC World Service, for example. When there is that much interest, language skills are likely to come naturally anyway. And even without that intensive exposure to a foreign language like English, there are still learners who don’t need rules and whose intuition guides them pretty well, especially after a few years of learning.

But there are different types of learners. Not only natural born learners need to learn foreign languages. And talking from my own experience, let me tell you this:

An old woman taught us English when we were some thirteen or fourteen years old. She was nice, old-fashioned, and sometimes incredibly boring. We had to learn grammar from huge tables, and she definitely took it too far once in a while, even for people like me who loved rules. She was sort of a barefoot teacher, with only a basic training to teach, but certainly with a good command of English herself.

After two years, a studied teacher who knew everything about modern training methodology took over from her. Hardly any grammar any more (but we had had our fill of that anyway, basically all of us), and lots of fascinating stories from American and British history, culture and folk instead. Songs, too. Every now and then, he brought his guitar along. I guess we all enjoyed his lessons better than the ones of the old lady who had preceded him.

But personally, I believe I can say that the mix of sometimes lackluster training during the preceding two years, and the fun of the two following them was exactly what I needed. With a secure feeling about word order and tenses, I enjoyed the new, fascinating and complex topics all the more, and some cool phrasal verbs led to real sense of achievement.

That said, I know that not every learner is a learner of my type. Ignoring that would make me a rather bad teacher. And I also understand that these days, even most of those students who could really use a good set of rules do need a sense of achievement from day one all the same. But I believe at the same time that this kind of impatience and unwillingness to live with some frustrations and uncertainties for a while is one of our biggest collective weaknesses.

And the directive that basically condemns every bit of good old-style grammar only seems to reflect that.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Scientific: How Chinese Grammar compromises Chinese Public Relations


No fun in the Indian countryside

No fun in the Indian countryside

(Draft for a Children’s TV program)

 Parental Guidance is advised, as this program may contain some disturbing images.

Hello Children, it’s Hermit, the Taoist Dragonfly again. Today, I’m going to tell you what went wrong with the Sacred-Torch Show and Tibet. But to help you better understand, I will show you first what is happening in India. Most farmers there are poor, and they get some extra **** from their local governments and landlords. So, take a look at the India countryside… (Hermit clicks on his notebook, and a map of India appears.)

No fun in the Indian countryside, children.

Now let’s look at Tibet. It takes three slides to understand the whole problem. (Hermit clicks again.)

Tibet Slide 1

Tibet Slide 1

Tibet Slide 2

Tibet Slide 2

Tibet Slide 3

Tibet Slide 3

No fun in Tibet either, children.

And next, a Chinese government spokesman or woman says: “56 nationalities are living happily together in China”.

Understandably, the rest of the world, looking at this mess, feels bullshitted by the Chinese government spokesman or woman. Who likes to be bullshitted? Who wouldn’t want to show these losers that they can’t bullshit the rest of the world that easily?

Meantime, the media in India report on the way corrupt officials and landlords squeeze the indian peasants. That doesn’t change the sad lot of India’s poor and powerless, but at least Indians don’t say that corrupt officials, **** landlords, and poor farmers, are living happily together. Not even a government spokeswoman or man says that. And noone in the rest of the world feels bullshitted by India. Besides, even if some anti-India snakeghosts would want to spoil an Indian Sacred-Torch Show, there is none anyway. The world is adhering to the One-Torch policy (which is the Chinese Torch, of course).

Now, but why this bullshit? The answer is simple, children. The problem is that Chinese language doesn’t know a conditional tense. Of course, Chinese government spokespeople know the conditional tense in theory, because they can speak English. But they only know it in theory. They can’t say “If we had a decent Tibet (and Xinjiang) policy, 56 nationalities would live happily together.” They can’t even think that.

Same with the future tense. They can’t say “Once we have found a decent policy on Tibet (and Xinjiang), 56 nationalities will live happily together.” They can’t even think that. All they can say is “Han Zang Yi Jia”, which means “Han Tibetan one Family”.

The way they can combine verbs with the present tense is also limited. They can say things like “You commit heinous crimes” or “You make a serious mistake”. But they can’t say “We commit heinous crimes” or “We make serious mistakes”.

Some combinations simply don’t work in Chinese, and every limit on your language is also a limit on your imagination. No language course and no studies abroad can change that.

So, dear children, next time before you even think of committing heinous crimes against the Chinese Sacred Torch, think of this, and be a bit more understanding, OK? A Han’s life isn’t easy either.

Got to fly now.

%d bloggers like this: