Neris, by Eimantas Paskonis.
Mandarin’s word for laboratory is shíyànshì (實驗室). The Hakka word, however, sounds different, of course.
When a school in Taiwan’s Xinzhu (Hsinchu) County, an area with many Hakka, put up some signs in romanization, some were quick to notice that the Hakka word contained what looked like the English word “shit.” That this was at an elementary school didn’t help matters. People there got a bit tired of explaining that this wasn’t obscene English but instead perfectly proper Hakka. The popular option now seems to be to spell the final syllable shid.
Táiwān tuīdòng Kèjiā wénhuà, yě ràng Kèyǔ chéngwéi yuèláiyuè duōguānxīn jiāodiǎn, dàn yǒu mínzhòng dào Xīnzhú Dōngyuán Guó-xiǎo, fāxiànjiàoshì de Kèyǔ pīnyīn zěnme kànqilai guài guài de, shì zhègè zì yòng shì t, rúguǒ yòng Yīngwén niàn sìhū bù tài wényǎ, hòulái cái fāxiàn, yuánláiyòng Tōngyòng Pīnyīn, pīn qǐlái jiù shì shì t, suǒyǐ mínzhòng qiānwàn biéxiǎng wāi.
Láidào Xīnzhú Dōngyuán Guó-xiǎo, wàitou jǐngwèishì, yǒu Yīngwén pīnyīn hái yǒu Táiyǔ、 Kèyǔ pīnyīn, zhǐshì nín zhùyìdàole ma? Kèyǔ pīnyīn dezuìhòu yī gè zì shit, zhè bù shì màrén de huà ma? Shì bu shì pīncuò le a, zài dào xiàonèi kàn, bùguǎn jiàoshì háishi xiàoshǐ shì, shènzhì shìxiàozhǎng shì, zhǐyào shì shì jiéwěi de dōu shì zhèyàng pīn.
Měi cì yǒu rén wèn jiù yào jiěshì gè lǎobàntiān, yuánlái tānkāi Kèjiā yǔpīnyīn, xiàngshì jiàoshì de shì、 shìhé de shì、 zhīshi de shí, tōngtōngdōu pīn chéng shit, suǒyǐ méi wèntí de la, dàn yǒu xǔduō xiǎopéngyou kàndào, yī kāishǐ háishi juéde guài guài de, qíshí zhè shì cǎiyòng Tōngyòng Pīnyīn yǐjīng yòngle 10 nián, dàn xiànzài wèile bìmiǎn kùnrǎo, yào gǎichéng Táiwān Kèyǔ pīnyīn, shit jiù biànchéngle shid, huòxǔ jiù bù huì zài ràngrén wùhuì la.
每次有人問就要解釋個老半天，原來攤開客家語拼音，像是教室的室、適合的適、知識的識，通通都拼成shit，所以沒問題的啦，但有許多小朋友看到，一開始還是覺得怪怪的，其實這是採用通用拼音已經用了10年，但現在為了避免困擾，要改成台灣客語拼音，shit 就變成了 shid，或許就不會再讓人誤會啦。
source: Guó-xiǎo fānyì cǎi Kèyǔ pīnyīn jiāo「 shì」 biàn 「shit」 (國小翻譯採客語拼音 教「室」變 「shit」), Dongsen News, December 9, 2011 (Yes, the year is correct. I just didn’t get around to finishing the post back then.)
In Hong Kong, aversion to Mandarin is continuing to grow, while pride in and affection for that language continue to fall, according to the results of a regular survey. The scores for all three have largely converged. I expect those trends to continue, so that the results from the next survey will show aversion to Mandarin surpassing affection for and pride in that language.
Attitudes toward Cantonese were not covered by this survey until 2012. Attitudes toward English are still not surveyed in this study.
Feelings toward other “icons” of Hong Kong and China as a whole were also surveyed, so while the scores on Mandarin may to some extent reflect how people in Hong Kong feel about the People’s Republic of China, it’s important to note that even objects such as the PRC flag manage significantly better than Mandarin in public opinion.
I’m using the translations offered by the survey itself:
- averse to: 抗拒
- proud of: 自豪
- affectionate toward: 親切
Pride in Mandarin (16.7 percent) is lower than pride in everything else in the survey except for the Hong Kong Central Government Offices, which came in at just 14.5 percent.
Pride in Cantonese (58.7 percent) is higher than pride in everything else in the survey except for the Night View of Victoria Harbour (65.2 percent).
Affection toward Mandarin (17.7 percent) was third lowest, ahead of only the People’s Liberation Army (14.1 percent) and the Hong Kong Central Government Offices (14.3 percent).
Affection toward Cantonese (81.0 percent) was the by far the highest of all, followed by affection toward the Night View of Victoria Harbour (69.7 percent). Nothing else made it past the low 30s.
People in Hong Kong had the highest aversion to the People’s Liberation Army (26.7 percent). Mandarin tied for second with the Hong Kong Central Government Offices (both 16.2 percent).
Aversion to Cantonese (1.7 percent) was the lowest of any surveyed category.
The information in this post was derived from:
- Xiānggǎngrén de shēnfen yǔ guójiā rèntóng diàochá jiéguǒ (香港人的身份與國家認同調查結果), Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, November 2014
- The Identity and National Identification of Hong Kong People: Survey Results, Centre for Communication and Public Opinion Survey, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, November 2014
Here’s a photo (blurry, I know) of the side of a bus in Taipei. I took this because the bus has text in Chinese characters running in three different directions: top to bottom, right to left, and left to right.
Taiwanese wouldn’t find this particularly confusing, as this sort of thing is not entirely uncommon here, though right-to-left horizontal writing is seen less and less.
I’m posting this mainly so I can refer to this example later if need be.
Demos Next Heavy, by Gerard Unger, is a free representative of the large Demos Next family. It handles Hanyu Pinyin with tone marks nicely.
I’m far behind on writing about Taiwan’s upcoming election. The logos for the two main candidates in the presidential race were revealed about a month ago.
First up is the presidential campaign logo for Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文 / Cài Yīngwén): “LIGHT UP TAIWAN 點亮台灣” (Diǎn liàng Táiwān).
And here is the campaign logo for the Kuomintang’s presidential candidate, Hung Hsiu-chu (Hóng Xiùzhù / 洪秀柱), er, Eric Chu (朱立倫 / Zhū Lìlún): “ONE TAIWAN 台灣就是力量” (Táiwān jiùshì lìliang).
It’s hard not to be struck by the fact that both prominently feature English slogans even though Taiwan has a distinct shortage of English-speaking Westerners who are eligible to vote here. (And, anyway, most such immigrants can read the Chinese characters.) For that matter, in both logos the English slogan comes first. That’s how cool and modern English is seen to be in Taiwan, even though it’s not an official language here. Coincidentally, one of the candidates is even named “Ing-wen” (“English language” / Yīngwén / 英文).
Sure, it’s window dressing; but it’s still window dressing in English.
In 2012 both major candidates had English slogans. Ma Ying-jeou used “Taiwan bravo;” and Tsai Ing-wen used “Taiwan next,” though Ma didn’t make such prominent use of English then as Chu is doing this year. My impression is that the Democratic Progressive Party embraced English much earlier than the Kuomintang but the KMT has since caught up with the DPP in this.
And, as was the case in the previous election, I’d like to note that both candidates used “台灣” rather than “臺灣” for “Taiwan,” despite the Ma administration’s declaration that the latter is the proper form.
further reading: Platform on tai?, Pinyin News, December 30, 2011
Raymond Huo, who served as a member of New Zealand’s parliament from 2008 to 2014, was born in China and moved to New Zealand twenty-one years ago from Beijing. His biography at the New Zealand Chinese Language Week Charitable Trust, an organization at which he is a co-chairman, states that he “has published seven books including two Chinese-English dictionaries as joint editor/translator.”
So when you hear that he is unhappy about how Statistics New Zealand is handling Mandarin, Cantonese, etc., in its count of languages, you might be inclined to think he is an expert who is battling ignorance in the bureaucracy. But read on.
“Treating Mandarin, Yue or other Chinese dialects as independent languages is deeply flawed,” Mr Huo said.
“It is similar to making statistical inferences about the difference between Northern English, Oceania English and Indian English, or … between pub talk and the King’s English.
“As such, English may not be the most widely spoken language if each ‘dialect’ was treated as an independent language as in the case of Mandarin and Cantonese.”
This is simply wrong. English as spoken in India, English as spoken in Oceania, and English as spoken elsewhere are all one language. Mandarin and Cantonese are not.
As expected, here comes something about Chinese characters.
The Chinese written script is broadly the same, but a single character can be pronounced in over 1000 different ways across China, according to Mr Huo.
That, however, doesn’t make “Chinese” one language. And focusing on Chinese characters is often a sign that someone has lost track of the language itself — or languages themselves, in this case.
Huo said the ranking order of English, te reo Maori, Samoan, and Hindi as the top four most spoken languages in New Zealand by Statistics NZ was “incorrect, misleading and deeply flawed.” He wants them all counted together, which would move “Chinese” into third place.
Census general manager Denise McGregor, however, said it is important to have a system of classification that enables languages to be either grouped or looked at individually.
“It’s incredibly useful to know that in a school zone, or at a specific library, or on a particular bus route there will be people who speak specifically Mandarin or Chinese,” she said.
“Just knowing they speak ‘Chinese’ isn’t likely to be as useful in targeting services.”
In the last Census, 52,263 people spoke Northern Chinese which includes Mandarin, 44,625 spoke Yue that includes Cantonese and 42,750 spoke a “Sinitic” language.
Mrs McGregor said of the 171,204 people in New Zealand of Chinese ethnicity, 45,216 were born here.
“The majority of these people do not speak any language other than English,” she said.
“We think the rich picture of the different Chinese languages and dialects is a valuable thing to have.”
Amen to that last thought. And I welcome the use of the phrase Sinitic language.
The author of the news article on this spoke with several other people.
David Soh, editor for Auckland-based Chinese language daily Mandarin Pages, said the Census figures for Mandarin speakers were “too low” to be correct.
“The figure that just over a quarter of the Chinese population are Mandarin speakers sounds too low to be accurate or true,” Mr Soh said.
“The fact is Chinese who speak Chinese dialects are often also able to converse in Mandarin, but the Census figure doesn’t seem to reflect that.”
AUT’s head of the School of Language and Culture, Sharon Harvey, said linguists would consider Chinese dialects as independent languages.
“It suits the Chinese Government to say all these languages are ‘only’ dialects but most linguists would say many are languages in their own right.”
Cantonese is a language with nine spoken tones but in Mandarin there are four, said Dr Harvey, and it would be hard to learn Cantonese and “make all those sounds” if someone hasn’t learned them as a child.
The article closes with some figures, taken from New Zealand’s Census 2013, of possible interest:
NEW ZEALAND CHINESE BY NUMBERS
- 171,204 — population total
- 122,964 — speak at least one or more Chinese languages
- 45,216 — NZ born, most speak only English
- 52,263 — speak Northern Chinese, including Mandarin
- 44,625 — speak Yue, including Cantonese
- 42,750 — speak a Sinitic language without further defining
source: How many people in NZ speak Chinese?, New Zealand Herald, December 3, 2015
One of my favorite programs, Wenlin Software for Learning Chinese, is having a special sale. Normally Wenlin costs US$99. But through December 31, 2015, Wenlin is available for just US$49 for the version you can download directly to your computer (Windows or Mac OS).
Truly, there are few things more beautiful than Wenlin’s
Edit → Make Transformed Copy → Pinyin transcription.
But Wenlin is filled with all sorts of other great features as well. And it comes with the electronic edition of the terrific ABC English-Chinese/Chinese-English Dictionary built in.
I love this program and use it on a near-daily basis, so I can recommend it highly.
If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for someone studying Mandarin, Wenlin would be a good choice.
To receive the special price, use the discount code CCMS2015.