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, 白云路 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 / Běijīng Lù.

From a Mandarin-language story:

Zài “gōnggòng biāozhì Yīngwén yì fǎguī fàn” zuìchū de cǎogǎo xiàng shèhuì zhēngqiú yìjiàn shí, jiāng “lù” hé “dàdào” fānyì chéng Yīngyǔ dāncí Road, Avenue. Zuórì gōngbù de “gōnggòng biāozhì Yīngwén yì fǎguī fàn” dìnggǎo zhōng, cóng “dàdào” dào “lù” dào “xiàng”, “lǐ”, “jiē” děng, yīlǜ zhíjiē yòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn jìnxíng biāozhù. Dànshì xiāngyìng de, “qiáo”, “lìjiāoqiáo”, “gōnglù”, “suìdào” děng jiāotōng shèshī, “guīfàn” zé míngquè guīdìng shǐyòng yìyì, rú “Guǎngzhōu Dà Qiáo” yì wéi Guangzhou Bridge, “Guǎngshàn Gōnglù” 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:

Zhōng yāoqiú duì shìzhèng dàolù de fānyì cǎiqǔ pīnyīn zhíyì de fāngshì, shì yǒu jù kěchá de. 1967 nián dì-èr jiè Liánhéguó dìmíng biāozhǔnhuà huìyì zuòchū juéyì, yāoqiú gèguó guójì jiāowǎng zhōng dōu shǐyòng Luómǎ (Lādīng) zìmǔ pīnxiě, měi ge dìmíng zhǐyǒu yī zhǒng Luómǎ zìmǔ de pīnxiě xíngshì, jí “dānyī Luómǎhuà”. Yīncǐ, “báiyún lù” jiùyào yì wéi Baiyun Lu, ér bù shì Baiyun Road, yīnwèi hòuzhě shì liǎng zhǒng bùtóng de Luómǎ zìmǔ pīnxiě xíngshì, bùfú “dānyī huà”. 1977 nián, dì-sān jiè Liánhéguó dìmíng biāozhǔnhuà huìyì shàng, tōngguòle Zhōngguó tíchū de cǎiyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn zuòwéi Zhōngguó dìmíng Luómǎ zìmǔ pīnxiěfǎ de guójì biāozhǔn. 1986 nián Guówùyuàn bānbù “dìmíng guǎnlǐ tiáolì”, guīdìng Zhōngguó dìmíng de Luómǎ zìmǔ pīnxiě, yī “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn” zuò tǒngyī guīfàn. Yīncǐ “báiyún lù” yě bùnéng yì wéi White Cloud Road, yīnwèi bù fúhé “Hànyǔ Pīnyīn Fāng’àn”. Suǒyǐ, shǐyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn zuòwéi Zhōngguó dìmíng pīnxiě guīfàn, bùjǐn wèi wǒmen fǎlǜ fǎguī suǒ guīdìng, yěděi dàoliǎo guójì shàng de rènkě.

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.

sources:

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

广州拟投资355万元设立新型国际化路标
http://www.sina.com.cn 2005年04月06日01:11 信息时报

  时报讯 (记者 高江虹 通讯员 穗规宣) 记者昨日从广州市规划局获悉,为解决目前指路标志存在交通指示不足、信息表现形式不一、交通信息连贯性差、牌面视认性较差、部分指路标志过期使用及引导信息过时等等问题。广州将借助“申亚”成功的契机,着手进行一系列指路标志系统改造,使整个指路标志系统更加规范化、国际化。目前包括投资355万元让重点部门、大型公建及旅游景点都设立新型国际化路标。

  旧路标信息指示不足

  据介绍,随着广州市城市布局的拓展和城市道路网络的发展,广州市指路标志系统的建设逐渐得到完善。但是现有指路标志系统存在重点部门、大型公建及旅游景点等指示信息的严重缺乏、整体布局缺乏足够的系统性、交通指示信息的连贯性较差等不足之处,大大影响了整个指路标志系统的交通指导效率。

  经有关部门调查发现,广州市区现有指路标志系统交通信息指示不足的现象比较普遍,不仅严重缺乏重点部门、大型公建及旅游景点等信息的指示,路标提供的信息量也明显不足,这对市民出行、城市公共服务设施的使用造成了一定的影响。

  调查还发现,部分指路标志存在过期及不规范使用的现象,如沙和路已经更名,指路标志的牌面信息却没有更新,过时的信息给人们带来了不便。还有一些指路牌虽然提供了相应的道路信息,但实际上该路段是不允许车辆进入的,这种禁令标志与指路标志分开设置的情况,非常容易引起误导。

  而现有路牌牌面规格和信息表现形式都存在问题,如通名译写形式混合使用汉语拼音和英文两种方式,不利于外来人员阅读和识别,容易混淆信息含义。还有不少路标被绿化和道路附属设施遮挡,使驾驶员无法及时辨认指路信息。

  拟投资355万让路标变脸

  为此,广州市市委、市政府于去年7月份,正式委托广州市交通规划研究所、广州市公安交警支队和广州至信交通顾问公司负责开展“广州市区道路交通指路标志系统改善方案研究”系列专题研究工作。据悉,目前“广州市道路交通管理设施设计施工指南”和“重点部门、大型公建及旅游景点指路标志系统布局方案研究”已经完成,正准备开始实施。据有关部门透露,这项广州市道路指示标志系统“大变脸”拟投资355万元,于亚运前完成。

  公园前区域将示范新路标

  规划局方面透露,指路标志系统的“变脸前奏”将选择在公园前地区做示范改善区域,完善区域现有指路标志系统指示信息的不足,及时更新区域过期及不规范使用的路标,为全市区域指路标志系统的改善研究提供借鉴。

  按照有关规范要求,各类指路标志将采用不同的牌面形式。如重要政府机关单位、医院、学校、文体设施、交通枢纽及展览会议中心等指路牌均采用一般道路指路标志形式,牌面颜色为蓝底白图案;具有旅游特色底商业中心及商业步行街、旅游景点采用旅游区指引标志形式,牌面颜色为棕底白图案。

  同时,将会统一中英文对照形式,以及增设必要信息指路标志。如增设省政府、市委、市人大、中山纪念堂、北京路步行街等指路标志。

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.