US grad enrollments in Mandarin fall

Although the number of people studying Mandarin in the United States has continued to rise (more about that in a later post), enrollments there in graduate courses in Mandarin have declined.

No. of U.S. Graduate School Enrollments in Mandarin from 1998 to 2009

(year: enrollments): 1998: 1220, 2002: 934, 2006: 1127, 2009: 1009

Grad School Enrollments in Mandarin as a Percentage of Total U.S. Post-Secondary Enrollments in Mandarin

1998: 5.15%, 2002: 3.35%, 2006: 2.63%, 2009: 1.96%

Here’s something I wrote the last time I addressed this topic.

The much-ballyhooed but also much-deserved increase in students studying Mandarin has all been at the undergraduate level. Given that the grad enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment for Mandarin is about the same as that for French (2.63 percent and 2.73 percent, respectively) it might appear that Mandarin has simply reached a “normal” ratio in this regard. But native speakers of English generally need much more time to master Mandarin than to master French. Simply put, four years, say, of post-secondary study of French provides students with a much greater level of fluency than four years of post-secondary study of Mandarin.

Also, there is a great deal more work that needs to be done in terms of translations from Mandarin. I do not at all mean to belittle the work being done in French — or in any other language…. I just mean that Mandarin has historically been underrepresented in U.S. universities given the number of speakers it has and its body of texts that have not yet been translated into English. U.S. universities need to be producing many more qualified grad students who can handle this specialized work. And right now, unfortunately, that’s not happening.

That still holds, except that grad enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment for Mandarin is even lower than before (1.96% vs. 2.37% for French, 1.99% for Spanish, and an impressive 4.68% for Korean).

sources:

Korea may make some spellings mandatory

I’ve been doing so much on signage lately that I’ve been neglecting the issue of romanization. (Remember romanization?) Here’s something just in from South Korea, a country that rivals Taiwan in making a national pastime of screwing around with its romanization system.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Presidential Council on National Competitiveness on Wednesday discussed plans to make the Korean language more accessible worldwide, including working out a Romanization standard for family names, compiling a new Hangul dictionary with about 1 million entries, and building a Hangul cultural center.

The government will come up with standard Romanization for family names this year that will become mandatory for people when they apply for new passports and for government offices that use both Hangul and English on official documents such as birth records and residence registration cards.

In Taiwan, people can choose among romanization systems for the name on their passport. Employing romanization for Hoklo, Hakka, or a language of one of Taiwan’s official tribes is also permitted.

An earlier Romanization project for family names was suspended in 2000 due to controversy over exceptions. The new standard will cost a huge amount of money as the Romanized names of businesses, schools and individuals as well as road signs will have to be changed.

A new Hangul dictionary is to be compiled by 2012, adding a large number of words to the last official dictionary published in 1999, which has about 500,000 entries, and adding easy sample sentences.

Experts have said that the younger generation have trouble understanding the conventional dictionary, as there are too many difficult Chinese characters in explanations and definitions.

The government also plans to compile a multilingual web dictionary comprising about 20 different foreign language sections — such as Vietnamese-Hangul and Thai-Hangul — to help foreigners and Korean nationals overseas.

A Hangul cultural center, to be built at a cost of W35.2 billion [US$27.5 million] by 2012, is to give visitors hands-on experience of the Korean language.

source: Standard Romanization for Korean Names Planned, Chosun Ilbo, June 25, 2009

Photo of street signs in Namyangju, Gyeonggi-do (Namyangju, Ky?nggi-do) courtesy of Robert Badger.
korean_streetsigns

massive Korean dictionary of Chinese characters nears completion

The final volumes in what is being touted as the world’s largest Chinese character dictionary are scheduled to be published in May.

The fifteen-volume work (excluding the index) will reportedly cover some 60,000 Chinese characters and include about 500,000 Sinitic words. By comparison, the Zhongwen da cidian (????? / Zh?ngwén dà cídi?n), published in Taiwan in the 1960s covers 49,905 Chinese characters.

The project was initiated by the Institute of Oriental Studies of Dankook University, South Korea, in 1978.

The first volume of the ?????? ? (in Mandarin: Hàn-Hán dà cídi?n; “Dictionary of Chinese characters Korean use,” as it is translated on the institute’s Web site) was issued in 1999. Last year, volumes 10-12 were published.

The project has reportedly cost more than W20 billion (US$21.3 million).

Yet more work may still be needed.

Prof. Kim Eon-jong of the Department of Korean Literature in Classical Chinese at Korea University said, “This project has great significance from the standpoint of cultural history. But it’s a pity that the institute hastened the final stage. It must complement and supplement the dictionary later.”

sources:

Some remarks from North Korea on language

I haven’t provided any news from North Korea in quite some time. Truly, I am wicked human scum whose frantic attempts to stifle the true voice of the people will be thwarted.

So here are some remarks from this year from North Korea’s official news agency (found on the Internet on a .jp domain — heh).

First off, in case anyone was wondering which of the world’s languages is wonderful beyond compare, it’s Korean:

There are more than 5,000 languages in the world, none of which can compare with the Korean written and spoken languages delicate in expression, rich in meaning and abundant in vocabulary.

Part of the reason for this is that Korean, at least as spoken in North Korea, has been rid of lots of foul loan words. Ah, purity!

More than tens of thousands of common vocabularies and terminology have been purified from Chinese and foreign words. A lot of inherent Korean words have been discovered and arranged and the Korean written and spoken language has developed into a new system with inherent Korean words as the main.

(Kidding aside, there really is a certain logic to this, given the problems that adopting Sinitic words and their Chinese characters into Korean caused for literacy.)

OK, back to linguistic reality, as defined by Pyongyang:

The Korean people are proud of having the Pyongyang cultured language and are embodying in their linguistic life thoroughly.

The Pyongyang cultured language is the standard one of the nation, which is fully reflecting the national characteristics and constantly developing in accordance with the requirements of the times.

The Koreans are a nation of one and the same blood who have lived in a territory with same culture down through history. They have developed the Korean language into the Pyongyang cultured language, centering around Pyongyang, the hub of the politics, economy and culture, since the liberation of the country from the Japanese colonial rule.

The Korean language, with abundant vocabularies, can correctly distinguish the differences between various objects and their meanings and clearly express people’s feelings and emotion, color, taste and etiquette.

Its pronunciations are fluent, intonations soft and sounds beautiful.

The Pyongyang cultured language comprehends the superior linguistic factors of the national language.

In particular, all the words of foreign origin which are difficult to understand have been removed and a vocabulary system has been established on the basis of home-grown words. As a result, the Pyongyang cultured language protects the purity of the Korean language on a high level.

Chinese and Japanese words had been brought into the Korean language in the past owing to the flunkeyism of feudal rulers and the Japanese imperialists’ moves to obliterate the Korean language. Foreign words including them have been arranged into Korean ones.

So now you know.

sources:

And for lagniappe: KCNA Random Insult Generator

China shifting its position on traditional Chinese characters?

Many Web sites in China are running the story that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese scholars have reached an agreement on unification of Chinese characters — and that this involves using many traditional characters.

If any “agreement” has indeed been reached, it probably won’t mean much, if anything at all — certainly not to the government of China. But the number of sites running this story and the prominence of some of the members of the PRC delegation make me wonder if this might just be a little more than much ado about nothing.

Zh?ng x?n w?ng 11 yuè 5 rì diàn jù h?iwài méit? p?lù, sh?yú Hànzì wénhuà qu?n de Zh?ngguó, Rìb?n, Hánguó S?nguó hé Zh?ngguó Táiw?n dìq? de xuézh? juédìng zhìzuò t?ngy? zìxíng (wénzì de xíngzhuàng) de 5000-6000 ge chángyòng Hànzì bi?ozh?n zì.

Hánguó “Cháoxi?n rìbào” k?nz?i wénzì jí shìpín bàodào ch?ng, dì-b? jiè “guójì Hànzì yánt?ohuì” shàngzh?u zài Zh?ngguó B?ij?ng chuánméi dàxué lóngzhòng zhàok?i, huìyì yóu Zh?ngguó Jiàoyùbù y?yán wénzì yìngyòng yánji?su? hé guóji? Hàny? guójì tu?gu?ng l?ngd?o xi?oz? bàng?ngshì zh?bàn. Huìyì jìhuà ji?ng Yuènán, M?láix?yà, X?nji?p?, Xi?ng G?ng, Àomén x?sh?u wéi x?n huìyuán, kuòdà Hànzì sh?yòng guóji? huò dìq? de c?nyù fànwéi. Huìyì juédìng zhìzuò gè guóji? dìq? Hànzì “b?jiào yánji? cídi?n”, zhújiàn t?ngy? gèguó sh?yòng de zìxíng. Huìyì hái jiù míngnián zài sh?u ?r j?xíng dì ji? jiè yánt?ohuì, gèguó f?nbié shèzhì 3 míng liánluòyuán (yánji? fùzérén) dáchéng le xiéyì.

Jù bàodào, “guójì Hànzì yánt?ohuì” yú 1991 nián f?q?. Qí mùdìzàiyú, yùfáng D?ngyà guóji? y?nwèi sh?yòng Zh?ngguó Táiw?n de fánt?zì, Zh?ngguó de ji?nt?zì, Rìb?n de lüèzì d?ng bùtóng xíngzhuàng de Hànzì ch?nsh?ng hùnluàn, quèdìng chángyòng Hànzì de zìshù, tu?jìn zìxíng bi?ozh?nhuà (t?ngy?).

B?njiè huìyì y? 2003 nián zài Rìb?n D?ngj?ng j?xíng de dì-q? jiè yánt?ohuì xi?nggé 4 nián. Jù bàodào, b?n cì huìyì tíyì, 5000 du? ge chángyòng bi?ozh?n zì ji?ng y? “fánt?zì” wéizh? jìnxíng t?ngy?, rúgu? gèbié Hànzì y?u ji?nt?zì, jiù jìxù b?oliú.

Ch?xí c?cì huìyì de Zh?ngf?ng dàibi?o y?u Wáng Ti?k?n (Jiàoyùbù y?yán wénzì xìnx? gu?nl? s? fù s?zh?ng, Zh?ngguó Wénzì Xuéhuì fùhuìzh?ng ji?n mìsh?zh?ng), Huáng Déku?n (?nhu? Dàxué xiàozh?ng, Zh?ngguó Wénzì Xuéhuì huìzh?ng), S? Péichéng (B?ij?ng Dàxué jiàoshòu), L? Dàsuì (B?ij?ng Dàxué jiàoshòu); Hánguó f?ng dàibi?o y?u L? Dàchún (Guójì Hànzì Zhènx?ng Xiéhuì huìzh?ng), L? Y?ngb?i (Sh?u’?r Dàxué míngyù jiàoshòu), Ji?ng Xìnhàng (Chéngj?ngu?n Dàxué míngyù jiàoshòu), Chén Tàixià (Rénj? Dàxué sh?uxí jiàoshòu), J?n Yànzh?ng (G?olí Dàxué jiàoshòu); Rìb?n f?ng dàibi?o y?u Zu?téng Gòngyuè (Zhùb? Dàxué jiàoshòu), Q?ngyuán Chúnpíng (q?nshàn bù huìzh?ng); Zh?ngguó Táiw?n dìq? [sic] dàibi?o y?u X? Xuérén (“Zh?ngguó Wénzì Xiéhuì” l?shìzh?ng).

source: Zh?ngguo, Rìb?n, Hánguó y? Zh?ngguó Táiw?n dìq? xuéjiè jiù “t?ngy? Hànzì” dáchéng xiéyì (?????????????“????”????), November 5, 2007

Indian influence on Chinese popular literature: a bibliography

Sino-Platonic Papers has rereleased for free another book-length back issue: A Partial Bibliography for the Study of Indian Influence on Chinese Popular Literature (10.8 MB PDF), by Victor H. Mair.

Here are the contents:

  • Journals and Works Referred to in Abbreviated Fashion
  • Catalogs of Tun-huang Manuscripts and Bibliographies of Studies on Them
  • Chinese Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Japanese and Korean Studies, Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries; Southeast Asian Sinitic Dictionaries
  • South and Southeast Asian and Buddhicized Central Asian Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries (Includes Indic, Tibetan, Uighur, Indonesian, etc.)
  • Near and Middle Eastern Texts, Translations, and Dictionaries
  • Studies and Texts in European Languages (Other than Translations from the Above Groups)
  • Films, Performances, Lectures, Unpublished Manuscripts, and Personal Communications
  • Articles and Books Not Seen

The introduction is also online in quick-loading HTML format.

This was first published in March 1987 as issue no. 3 of Sino-Platonic Papers.

Google’s new ‘cross-language information retrieval’

Google has just launched a “cross-language information retrieval” (CLIR) function to Google Translate.

Here is how Google describes it:

Now, you can search for something in your own language (for example, English) and search the web in another language (for example, French). If you’re looking for wine tasting events in Bordeaux while on vacation in France, just type “wine tasting events in Bordeaux” into the search box on the “Search results” tab on Google Translate. You’ll then get French search results and a (machine) translation of these search results into English. Similarly, an Arabic speaker could look for restaurants in New York, by searching for “???? ???????”; or a Chinese speaker could look for documents on machine learning on the English web by looking for “????”.

These are the languages available, though for now these are not available in all combinations but mainly to or from English. (German and French are the only languages listed that can work with each other rather than English.)

  • Arabic
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Mandarin (in traditional characters)
  • Mandarin (in simplified characters)
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

sources:

Korean university students show little knowledge of Chinese characters

A group of 384 freshmen at Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea were tested on their knowledge of hanja (Chinese characters, as are sometimes used in writing words in Korean). Although this sample isn’t particularly large, I haven’t seen any indication that anyone believes it is not representative of Korean university freshmen as a whole. The results — at least for those who believe that Chinese characters still play a major role in literacy in Korean — are fairly dramatic:

  • 20 percent couldn’t write their own names in Chinese characters
  • 77 percent couldn’t write their mother’s name in Chinese characters
  • 83 percent couldn’t write their father’s name in Chinese characters
  • 71 percent couldn’t write “new student” in Chinese characters
  • 96 percent couldn’t write “economy” in Chinese characters
  • 98 percent couldn’t write “encyclopedia” in Chinese characters

And as for reading Chinese characters?

  • 93 percent couldn’t read the word for “ambition” as written in Chinese characters
  • 96 percent couldn’t read the word for “honor” as written in Chinese characters
  • 99 percent couldn’t read the word for “compromise” as written in Chinese characters

Remember, this refers to students at a prominent university.

A pro-character editorial in response to this states:

Seventy percent of Korean words including most conceptual and abstract nouns are made of Chinese characters. Terminology used in humanities, social studies and natural science are mostly Chinese characters. It is difficult to understand the meaning of words by pronunciation alone, without learning about the meanings of the Chinese characters that represent them. Words such as “recurrence”, “repatriation” and “homing” contain the Chinese character that stands for “return.” Without knowing that character, you must memorize each of those words separately by sound.

Whoever wrote that needs to be sent to the board to write “Chinese characters are not words” one hundred times. But I don’t know what it would take for the author to realize that learning words by sound rather than Chinese characters is entirely normal — exactly what native speakers of languages the world over do.

For a little more information on the complications in the use of Chinese characters with Korean, see Asia’s Orthographic Dilemma by William C. Hannas, especially the sections on the so-called homonym problem and the supposed transitivity [of Chinese characters] across languages.

sources:

See also Occidentalism’s thread on this, which already has more than thirty comments.