Guangzhou opts for Pinyin ‘Lu’ over English ‘Road’

In the push for Guangzhou to revamp its street signs, it appears the initial move for all general terms to be translated into English — e.g., as road — has been overturned. I’m pleased. Thus, Guangzhou’s street signs will be written differently than those in Beijing and many other cities in China.

Of course, I’d be more pleased if, say, ??? were rendered as Baahk-wahn Louh (or however that should be spelled in Cantonese) instead of or in addition to Báiyún Lù. Fat chance of that happening, though. And, anyway, the ratio for stories that please me vs. those that really piss me off is not nearly what I’d like it to be, so at least today I’ll take what I can get.

Some excerpts from stories on this topic:

No, it is not “street,” nor “road”. It is simply lu.

The English translation for signs in Guangzhou will be based on Mandarin pronunciation with pinyin spelling and come into effect from May 1, the city government said.

This means busy Beijing Road will be translated as Beijinglu and east Dongfeng Road will be known as Dongfeng Donglu. Lu means road or street in English.

I really hope that “Beijinglu” is just a typo. It should be Beijing Lu / B?ij?ng Lù.

From a Mandarin-language story:

Zài “g?nggòng bi?ozhì Y?ngwén yì f?gu? fàn” zuìch? de c?og?o xiàng shèhuì zh?ngqiú yìjiàn shí, ji?ng “lù” hé “dàdào” f?nyì chéng Y?ngy? d?ncí Road, Avenue. Zuórì g?ngbù de “g?nggòng bi?ozhì Y?ngwén yì f?gu? fàn” dìngg?o zh?ng, cóng “dàdào” dào “lù” dào “xiàng”, “l?”, “ji?” d?ng, y?l? zhíji? yòng Hàny? P?ny?n jìnxíng bi?ozhù. Dànshì xi?ngyìng de, “qiáo”, “lìji?oqiáo”, “g?nglù”, “suìdào” d?ng ji?ot?ng shèsh?, “gu?fàn” zé míngquè gu?dìng sh?yòng yìyì, rú “Gu?ngzh?u Dà Qiáo” yì wéi Guangzhou Bridge, “Gu?ngshàn G?nglù” yìchéng Guangshan Highway.

Note the translation (which, however, won’t be used) of dàdào as “avenue.” In Taiwan, this is rendered as “boulevard.”

OK, being pleased was nice while it lasted. Now, unfortunately, it’s time to go back to being pissed off. It takes real chutzpah to bring up a U.N. resolution that backs native languages in support of putting Mandarin on signs in a Cantonese-speaking region.

A resolution made by the UN in 1967 stipulated all the English translations of place names in each country and region should be based on its mother language. The State Council issued a plan to standardize place names in 1986, stipulating all public names should be based in pinyin.

Or, as a Mandarin-language article puts it in greater detail:

Zh?ng y?oqiú duì shìzhèng dàolù de f?nyì c?iq? p?ny?n zhíyì de f?ngshì, shì y?u jù k?chá de. 1967 nián dì-èr jiè Liánhéguó dìmíng bi?ozh?nhuà huìyì zuòch? juéyì, y?oqiú gèguó guójì ji?ow?ng zh?ng d?u sh?yòng Luóm? (L?d?ng) zìm? p?nxi?, m?i ge dìmíng zh?y?u y? zh?ng Luóm? zìm? de p?nxi? xíngshì, jí “d?ny? Luóm?huà”. Y?nc?, “báiyún lù” jiùyào yì wéi Baiyun Lu, ér bù shì Baiyun Road, y?nwèi hòuzh? shì li?ng zh?ng bùtóng de Luóm? zìm? p?nxi? xíngshì, bùfú “d?ny? huà”. 1977 nián, dì-s?n jiè Liánhéguó dìmíng bi?ozh?nhuà huìyì shàng, t?ngguòle Zh?ngguó tích? de c?iyòng Hàny? P?ny?n F?ng’àn zuòwéi Zh?ngguó dìmíng Luóm? zìm? p?nxi?f? de guójì bi?ozh?n. 1986 nián Guówùyuàn b?nbù “dìmíng gu?nl? tiáolì”, gu?dìng Zh?ngguó dìmíng de Luóm? zìm? p?nxi?, y? “Hàny? P?ny?n F?ng’àn” zuò t?ngy? gu?fàn. Y?nc? “báiyún lù” y? bùnéng yì wéi White Cloud Road, y?nwèi bù fúhé “Hàny? P?ny?n F?ng’àn”. Su?y?, sh?yòng Hàny? P?ny?n zuòwéi Zh?ngguó dìmíng p?nxi? gu?fàn, bùj?n wèi w?men f?l? f?gu? su? gu?dìng, y?d?i dàoli?o guójì shàng de rènk?.

Well, I suppose those could be separate instances of subversive irony; but my money is still on deeply offensive and clueless chutzpah. Or doublespeak. Take your pick.


related entries

status of Cantonese: a survey-based study

The latest new release from Sino-Platonic Papers is one that I think will be of particular interest to readers of Pinyin News. It’s an extensive study of not only the attitudes of speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin toward the status of Cantonese but also their beliefs about its future, especially in Hong Kong: Language or Dialect–or Topolect? A Comparison of the Attitudes of Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese towards the Status of Cantonese (650 KB PDF), by Julie M. Groves.

This study reports on a comparative survey of three groups of Chinese: 53 Hong Kong Cantonese speakers, 18 Mainland Chinese Cantonese speakers, and 72 Mainland Chinese Putonghua speakers. It was found that the Putonghua speakers held more ‘classic’ views, the majority seeing Cantonese as a dialect. In contrast, only just over half the Hong Kongers and two-fifths the Mainland Cantonese speakers considered it clearly a dialect, while one-third of all respondents favoured a mid-point classification. The differing perspectives held by the groups can be traced to their different political and linguistic situations, which touch issues of identity.

The author notes, “The uncertainties in classification also reflect a problem with terminology. The Chinese word usually translated dialect, fangyan (??), does not accurately match the English word dialect.” Groves recommends the adoption of Victor Mair’s proposed English word for fangyan: topolect.

Although this focuses on the dialect vs. language debate, it covers much more than that. Those being surveyed were also asked questions such as:

  • Where do you think the best Cantonese is spoken?
  • Do you think Putonghua will eventually replace Cantonese as the main, everyday language of Hong Kongers?
  • Do you think it is possible for someone to consider themselves to be a Hong Konger (or Hong Kong Chinese/Chinese Hong Konger) without being able to speak Cantonese?

The results of the study may also prove useful for those interested in the future of other languages of China and Taiwan, such as Taiwanese and Shanghainese.

Here are a couple of the many graphs found in the study.

HK Cant = Hong Kong Cantonese speakers
MCant = mainland Cantonese speakers
MPTH = mainland speakers of Mandarin (“P?t?nghuà“)

graph of responses to the question 'Will Putonghua replace Cantonese as the main language of Hong Kongers?' Most say 'no' -- and this is strongest among mainland Cantonese speakers

graph of responses to the question 'Can a person be a Hong Konger without speaking Cantonese?' Most Hong Kong Cantonese speakers say no; but the answer is closer to a tie for mainland Mandarin speakers

Guangzhou subway to switch from Pinyin to English-Pinyin mix

Guangzhou’s Metro will be reportedly be changing from Hanyu Pinyin to a mix of English and Pinyin in the naming of its stations. Thus, for example, “Guangzhou Huochezhan” will become “Guangzhou Train Station” (or something like that) and Tiyu Xilu will become Tiyu West Road.

If the official website of the Guangzhou Metro is anything to go by, the Pinyin presently used there is terrible. The official website is infected with the Pinyin-crippling diseases of InTerCaPiTaLiZaTion and FailUreToSePaRateWords. ????, for example, is given not as T?yù X?lù but as TiYuXiLu. Horrible! And, of course, there are some typos too, which make matters even worse, such as TiYuZhongZin for what should be T?yù Zh?ngx?n.

The last time I was in Guangzhou the subway didn’t exist, so I haven’t seen this signage for myself. Can anyone supply photos of station signage in Guangzhou? I’d also appreciate receiving photos of official Pinyin signage from elsewhere in China. (Photos can be sent to the address on my contact info page.)

And, of course, there’s no word on supplying what ought to be a basic: additional signage in romanized Cantonese.

I have written the authorities there seeking details about the conversion but have not received a reply.

source and resources:

typo of the day

Ain’t it the truth.

sign in Guangzhou Province with 'ticketing hell' rather than 'ticketing hall'

Jìzh? zuórì (5 rì) qiánw?ng D?nggu?n shìq? m?u qìch? z?ngzhàn bànshì, zài zhàn qián gu?ngch?ng xià le g?ngji?och? biàn xúnzh?o shòupiàot?ng wèizhi. Z?uláng shàng xuángguà zhe y?kuài jùdà de zh?shì pái, zh?míng chángtú shòupiàot?ng de wèizhi, dàn Hànzì xiàmian pèishàng de Y?ngwén ràngrén dàch?-y?j?ng, hèrán xi? zhe: Ticketing Hell (Zh?ngwén zhíyì wéi “shòupiào dìyù”). Yuánlái shì dàt?ng de Y?ngwén “Hall” bèi wùxi? wéi “Hell” (dìyù).

Zhè kuài zh?shì pái de bèimiàn xi? zhe bùtóng de nèiróng, Zh?ngwén shì “xíngrén t?ngdào”, Y?ngwén xi?zuò “Pedestrain chenneling”. Zhu?nyè rénshì gàosu jìzh?, “chenneling” bùzh? hé yì, shì zìj? sh?ngzào de cíhuì, k?néng shì xi?ng xi? “channeling” ér ch?xiàn le p?nxi? cuòwù, dàn “channeling” shì “g?uqú” de yìsi, “t?ngdào” y?b?n xi?zuò “channels”.

Zài gu?ngch?ng de lìngy? cè, g?ngji?o zhàn de zh?shì pái shàng bùzài xi? Y?ngwén, érshì g?iyòng P?ny?n, dànshì xi?zuò “gongjiaozan”, “zhàn” zì de p?ny?n y?shì cuòwù de.

Y?u chéngkè gàosu jìzh?, zhèxi? zh?shì pái y?jing guà le h?oj? nián le, y?zhí méiy?u huàn xiàlái. Rúgu? wàib?n kànjian, bùzh? zuò hé g?nxi?ng.

source: Y?ngwén p?nxi? cuòwù: y?zìzh?ch? shòupiàot?ng biàn “dìyù” (?????? ????????“??”), Gu?ngzh?u Rìbào, November 4, 2006

Chinese orphanages and children’s names

I was amazed and appalled to discover today that a widespread practice for naming abandoned children in China has been to assign the family name after the name of the city of the orphanage. For example, many such children from Guangzhou have been assigned the family name of Guang and those from Shenzhen have been called Shen.

China doesn’t have the same range of surnames of Western countries (more about that some other time), so uncommon names stick out even more there than in the West. Giving children family names like Guang and Shen is not altogether unlike branding their foreheads and ID cards with the word “orphan.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, the given names assigned to children have been largely pro forma as well, with elements of even those often based on geography. Thus, children in the Guangzhou orphanage have often had names of places within the city incorporated into their names, such as “Tian,” “Bai,” and “Li,” with those representing the city’s Tianhe, Baiyun, and Liwan districts, respectively.

Naming someone Li after the Liwan District (???) is pretty much the same as calling that person “Lychee.”

The non-geographical elements in given names have often been Yong (as in ??, brave), Hong (?/?, red — often associated with communism), Qiang (?/?, strong), Wen (?, literacy, culture), Ping (as in ??, duckweed), or Cui (?, emerald green).

Taken as a whole, these names tend to mark children as having been residents of an orphanage and, as my source article states, “are not good for their psychology when they try to interact with the outside world, the orphanage has found.”

No kidding. Just how many decades did it take to figure that out?

Fortunately, the practice has changed, at least in Guangzhou:

Starting this year, Guangzhou’s orphanage has stopped giving its wards the surname “Guang” to prevent them from being identified as orphans.

All children adopted by the orphanage are being given the surname “Li” this year, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily said yesterday. “Wang” will be used next year, followed by other Chinese surnames listed in the “Baijiaxing,” a book of 100 common surnames. Staff members of the orphanage said they would also try to think of unique names for each child, rather than middle names representing the location of orphanage, and a randomly picked given name.

The children can also pick their own name later if they do not like the name given by the institute, the head of the orphanage said.

I wonder how many Westerners who have adopted children from China have innocently continued to use such pro forma names, thinking that they must have been given especially and uniquely to their child.

source: Guang dropped as surname for orphans, Shenzhen Daily, February 13, 2006

unfortunate results of appetite for ‘lucky’ moss

The desire around Chinese New Year to consume fàcài (?? / ??), which is an edible, hairlike moss, has led to desertification in Inner Mongolia, according to an article in the South China Morning Post. The problem is rooted in that fàcài sounds like f?cái (?? / ??), which is the verb “to get rich.”

Note that fàcài and f?cái are not true homophones, so there’s no problem distinguishing them in Pinyin — though even without tone marks the difference would be made clear by context, relative frequency of use, and the fact that one is a noun and the other a verb. The name of this moss and “get rich” also sound similar in Cantonese. (In Taiwan, the pronunciation of the fa of fàcài is in third tone.)

The main association with Chinese New Year is the polite phrase g?ngx? f?cái (???? / ????), which is tossed around a lot this time of year. (In Cantonese, it’s “kunghei fatchoi,” spelled in lots of ways.) It’s a way of wishing that the person makes a lot of money in the coming year. Although it doesn’t mean “happy new year,” in can be used in most of the same circumstances as that phrase.

Guangzhou diners are still consuming the banned fa cai black moss, with restaurants and seafood shops cashing in on the belief that eating it gives an auspicious start to the Lunar New Year because its name is a homonym for “get rich.” The harvesting and export of the hair-like plant called fat choi in Cantonese was banned in 2000 to protect the environment. Fa cai grows in the thin arid soils of Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Ningxia, Qinghai, and Gansu, and harvesting damages the environment because topsoil is raked loose, leading to soil erosion and desertification.

Staff at Guangzhou’s Ting Cheng Restaurant said fa cai with oysters was one auspicious dish on its menu. Seafood shops along Yide Road were also stocking the moss and asking customers what grade they wanted, leading some consumers to wonder whether some of the produce could be corn silk dyed to pass as fa cai.

While one shop owner acknowledged the ban, he said he was selling stock bought before it was implemented. “It’s not allowed to be harvested any more. My suppliers in Xinjiang are giving me stocks harvested before the ban,” he said.

Teacher Shu Chang said she paid 230 Yuan for 250 grams of fa cai. “I can’t really tell the real stuff from fake fa cai, but it must be real because it is expensive. If you soak it and the dye comes off, it must be fake,” she said.

Excessive harvesting has turned millions of hectares of pasture into desert. Before the ban, 40,000 sq. km. had been laid to waste in 20 years in Inner Mongolia.

I wanted to use a desert/dessert pun in the headline of this post. Facai, however, is used in soups and a few other types of dishes, not desserts. Oh well.

source: Auspicious moss stays on menus despite ban, South China Morning Post

signage in Guangzhou

?????355??????????? 2005?04?06?01:11 ????

????? (?? ??? ??? ???) ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“??”???????????????????????????????????????????????355????????????????????????????












English in Guangzhou

English names may be introduced in every public place in the growing southern city of Guangzhou.

The Guangzhou Language Committee said the city government has asked relevant departments and organizations to introduce English names for city streets, scenic spots, parks, residential areas, bus stops, metro stations, piers, museums and even public toilets.

The municipal government is striving to turn the city into an international metropolis.

Currently, most of the city’s public places have only pinyin or local Cantonese style names that confuse most foreigners.

At the same time, the language committee will soon launch a city-wide campaign to check English usage in the city.

The committee plans to set up a task force to help inspect all public places to further promote and standardize the use of English names.

The public venues that have no English names will be asked to provide one while those with inappropriate names or bad translations will be required to come up with a better alternative, an official from the committee said.

Cantonese style expressions widely used in the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions will no longer be considered English names.

New police cars are already being converted, with the pinyin of the Chinese word for police, “Jing Cha,” substituted by the word “police” on both sides of the car.

The first group of new patrol wagons were put into service in Guangzhou late last week.

By September 2006, all the patrol wagons in service will be replaced by the new 2004 versions, or re-painted in the new style that includes white, blue and yellow colours, said the official yesterday.

Meanwhile all the grass-roots police offices and sub-stations will also be required to put up signs that include their English names in front of the their gates before the end of the year to provide better service, the official added.

An English police hotline has also opened to serve the English-speaking people in Guangzhou.

From the China Daily.