China and U.S. study abroad programs

China remained the fifth most popular destination for U.S. students studying abroad during the 2008/09 school year, and it continued to account for 5 percent of U.S. study abroad.

In the previous academic year, growth for the PRC as a destination increased 19.0 percent, while study abroad as a whole increased 8.5 percent. But for 2008/09 growth for China was a much smaller 3.9 percent, while the total worldwide figure declined -0.8 percent. Figures for the top four destinations also dropped.

The order of the top 10 remained the same as in the previous year, except Mexico and Germany switched places.

Top 10 destinations for study abroad by U.S. students in the 2006-07, 2007-08, and 2008-09 school years
China shown as the fifth most popular destination for study abroad. The top destination is the U.K., followed by Italy, Spain, and France. See the link to my source material for the actual numbers.

Some other figures of possible interest:

  • Japan was in 11th place with 5,784 students, a 1.3 percent increase over the previous year.
  • Taiwan’s total grew 3.3 percent to 597.
  • Hong Kong grew 5.7 percent to 1,155.
  • South Korea grew a dramatic 29.1 percent to 2,062.
  • Singapore grew 7.7 percent to 612.

Study in Asia increased slightly.

Percent of study abroad performed in Asia
chart showing percentage of study abroad in Asia flat at about 6% from 1996-2000, with growth increasing since 2003 to the present 11.1% for the 2008-09 school year

source: Open Doors data portal

Previous posts on this subject:

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.

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 (中文大辭典 / Zhōngwén dà cídiǎn), 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 『漢韓大辭典 』 (in Mandarin: Hàn-Hán dà cídiǎn; “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.”


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.


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

reviews of books related to China and linguistics

Sino-Platonic Papers has just released online its first compilation of book reviews. Here is a list of the books discussed. (Note: The links below do not lead to the reviews but to other material.)

Invited Reviews

  • J. Marshall Unger, The Fifth Generation Fallacy. Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • Rejoinder by J. Marshall Unger
  • Hashimoto Mantaro, Suzuki Takao, and Yamada Hisao. A Decision for the Chinese NationsToward the Future of Kanji (Kanji minzoku no ketsudanKanji no mirai ni mukete). Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • S. Robert Ramsey. The Languages of China. Reviewed by Wm. C. Hannas
  • James H. Cole, Shaohsing. Reviewed by Mark A. Allee
  • Henry Hung-Yeh Tiee, A Reference Grammar of Chinese Sentences. Reviewed by Jerome L. Packard

Reviews by the Editor

  • David Pollack, The Fracture of Meaning
  • Jerry Norman, Chinese
  • N. H. Leon, Character Indexes of Modern Chinese
  • Shiu-ying Hu, comp., An Enumeration of Chinese Materia Medico
  • Donald M. Ayers, English Words from Latin and Greek Elements
  • Chen Gang, comp., A Dictionary of Peking Colloquialisms (Beijing Fangyan Cidian)
  • Dominic Cheung, ed. and tr., The Isle Full of Noises
  • Jonathan Chaves, ed. and tr., The Columbia Book of Later Chinese Poetry
  • Philip R. Bilancia, Dictionary of Chinese Law and Government
  • Charles O. Hucker, A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China
  • Robert K. Logan, The Alphabet Effect
  • Liu Zhengtan, Gao Mingkai, et al., comp., A Dictionary of Loan Words and Hybrid Words in Chinese (Hanyu Wailai Cidian)
  • The Mandarin Daily Dictionary of Loan Words (Guoyu Ribao Wailaiyu Cidian)
  • Shao Xiantu, Zhou Dingguo, et al., comp., A Dictionary of the Origins of Foreign Place Names (Waiguo Diming Yuyuan Cidian)
  • Tsung-tung Chang, Metaphysik, Erkenntnis und Praktische Philosophie um Chuang-Tzu
  • Irene Bloom, trans, ed., and intro., Knowledge Painfully Acquired: The K’un-chih chi of Lo Ch’in-shun
  • Research Institute for Language Pedagogy of the Peking College of Languages, comp., Frequency Dictionary of Words in Modern Chinese (Xiandai Hanyu Pinlyu Cidian)
  • Liu Yuan, chief compiler, Word List of Modern Mandarin (Xianhi Hanyu Cibiao)
  • The Editing Group of A New English-Chinese Dictionary, comp., A New English-Chinese Dictionary
  • BBC External Business and Development Group, Everyday Mandarin

This is SPP no. 8, from February 1988. The entire text is now online as a 4.2 MB PDF.

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.


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

Korean romanization — again

It’s not just Taiwan that can’t seem to get its romanization situation resolved well. “Calls for a revision of the current Romanization system for the Korean alphabet, Hangul, are gaining more ground as confusion continues on the roads, signboards and government documents after the introduction of the current form in July 2000,” reports the Korea Times.

Some 75 percent of South Koreans think the government-enacted Romanization system does not reflect the original pronunciation of Hangul properly, a survey conducted by the Yoido Institute, a think tank of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) showed yesterday.

Of the 2,150 adults polled last week, 66.1 percent wanted the current system to be revised despite the expected financial cost, according to the survey conducted on the occasion of the 560th Hangul Day which falls on Oct. 9.

I make no claims of knowledge of which romanization system would be best for Korea, so be sure to read my comments with that in mind. But I do know to be wary of polls conducted by political parties.

Hangul was first Romanized using the McCune-Reischauer (M-R) system in the early 20th century, when a number of foreign missionaries came to the Choson Kingdom. But the country’s Romanization system underwent flip-flopping policies in the following decades.

“Confusions we experience today have been caused largely due to the arbitrary attitudes of armchair linguists and some misguided government officials,’’ said Kim Bok-moon, professor emeritus of Chungbuk National University.

Scraping the traditional M-R system, which had prevailed in the past decades, the government adopted a new system on July 7, 2000, shifting “Pusan,’’ “Kobukson (turtle ship) and “kimchi’’ into “Busan,’’ “Geobukseon’’ and “gimchi.’’

The English-language media, including the state-funded Yonhap News Agency, had resisted the change for a period of time. But, as time went by, all the news media gave in to the new system except The Korea Times, which has maintained the M-R system concluding that it is the most similar to actual pronunciation.

Let alone the tremendous cost of the revision, the main problem of the current system is that it does not ensure the exact pronunciation of the original sound of various Korean words.

No romanization system — or any other script, for that matter — ensures the exact pronunciation of the words of a language for people who do not know how that system works. It seems unlikely that the South Korean government would have promulgated an inherently unworkable system, such as the bastardized version of Wade-Giles is for Mandarin Chinese. (Proper Wade-Giles, of course, could work perfectly well for Mandarin, though I certainly don’t recommend it.)

And the author shouldn’t have written “the exact pronunciation of the original sound of various Korean words” but simply “the exact pronunciation of Korean words.”

Kim, who serves as president of the Research Institute for Korean Romanization (KOROMA), has made sole efforts to end the confusion, submitting a petition to then President Kim Dae-jung and presenting a Constitutional petition.

In a seminar at the National Assembly yesterday, he presented the disastrous result of an experiment that he conducted along with KBS TV about the new system in Itaewon, downtown Seoul, and at the Kimpo International Airport.

When he asked foreign people to read “Yeoksam-dong (???)’’ and “Geobukseon (???),’’ the majority of them pronounced them “ioksaemdong (????)’’ and “jiobuksion (?????),’’ far different from the actual sound.

Oh, no. Not another “let’s ask a random and probably clueless foreigner how to pronounce something” poll. These mean nothing. There are plenty of people in the United States who would mangle even the pronunciations of items on a menu in a Mexican restaurant; but that doesn’t mean Spanish orthography needs revision.

Because a committee under Taiwan’s Ministry of Education approved a romanization method for Taiwanese last week, some grandstanding member of the legislature is almost certainly going to force some executive-branch official who doesn’t know the system to read out loud something that was written in it, thus “proving” the system doesn’t work. It might already have happened.

According to Kim, 16 out of the newly Romanized 21 vowels of Hangul are out of sync with actual sounds when they are read by English-speaking people, who have no knowledge about the premise that “eo’’ would be pronounced as “?.’’ He has devised his own system, which he claims ensures the best pronunciations.

“Disasters that many critics expected have already begun. We can easily find serious confusion here and there,’’ Kim told The Korea Times. “We have to correct the mistake without delay before it is too late, and adopt a proper system.’’

Romanization systems seldom work well when forced into the mold of an anglicization. I wonder if romanized Korean is commonly but mistakenly referred to in Korea as “English.”

And, of course, there’s always an appeal to nationalism:

One example of what Kim cited as “losses of national interests’’ was “Koguryo’’ and “Dokdo,’’ which became objects of historical and even territorial rows with China and Japan during the past couple of years.

At a time when China spelled the ancient Korean kingdom as “Koguryo,’’ South Korea’s English-language dailies, except for The Korea Times, wrote it as “Goguryeo.’’ It was later unified into Koguryo as even the UNESCO’s World Heritage called it Koguryo.

A set of South Korean tiny islets in the East Sea, Dokdo had also been divided into “Tokto’’ and “Dokdo.’’ The Korea Times agreed to unify it into Dokdo at the recommendation of the government as an exceptional case. But the foreign news media and Web sites are still left confused between them.

The article closes:

Critics say the Romanization system should be revised in a way that best reflects the characteristics of the Korean language and the reunification of the two Koreas should also be taken into consideration.

North Korea has a system similar to the M-R system, which writes its cities and places in English as “Pyongyang,’’ “Kaesong’’ and “Mt. Kumgang’’ _ not “Pyeongyang,’’ “Gaeseong’’ and “Mt. Gumgang.’’

North Korea once proposed the unification of the different Romanization systems used by South and North Korea in a meeting of linguists from the two Koreas in Berlin, Germany, in 2002.


source: Hangul Romanization Revision Proposed, Korea Times, September 26, 2006

some comments here: More romanization debate, The Marmot’s Hole, September 29, 2006

read about hangul here: Hangul Day, Language Log, October 9, 2005