Pronunciation: Chinese and Japanese

Ever since I learned the proper pronunciation in Mandarin of pinyin x, q, and j, I’ve had my doubts about the true pronunciation of Japanese. According to the Japanese textbooks I learned from, the Japanese し (romanized as shi) is pronounced nearly the same as the English word “she.” Any textbooks that wanted to go into picky differences would be likely to talk about the differences in vowel sounds between English and Japanese, not the “sh” …

A Record of Spoken Chinese

According to Xinhua, Chinese linguists are finishing up a huge database of spoken Chinese, and they’re going to use it as a basis for a new dictionary and grammar book of modern Chinese. This is good news! Using actual spoken speech as the source should produce a much more useful dictionary.

I’m a little disappointed that all the spoken Mandarin Chinese samples come from Beijing, though. Yes, I know Beijing is the standard, but wouldn’t real linguists want to …

Christmas Calvin & Hobbes

I wrote before about discovering Calvin & Hobbes Chinese translations here in Shanghai, and about how the two characters’ names were translated into Chinese. I got some requests for scans.

I think the comics are translated mostly quite well. I’m still unsure of the legitimacy of the publication, though. The cover looks all nice, and I bought the books for 20 rmb each in a major Shanghai bookstore (思考乐), but the paper is rather low quality and the reproduction sometimes …

Code Switching in the Car

Code switching: a term in linguistics referring to alternating between one or more languages or dialects in the middle of discourse between people who have more than one language in common.Wikipedia

I was riding with my girlfriend in her car. We were pulling up to my apartment, and the guard was motioning to her.

Legend: SHH=上海话 (Shanghainese), PTH=普通话 (Mandarin)

Her (SHH): Can’t I park here?

Guard (SHH): No, you need

Eat Poop You Cat

Eat Poop You Cat” is a party game I recently discovered via Metafilter. The premise:

Each person writes a sentence, such as, say, “The hot soup burned my tongue.” The next person illustrates the sentence. Then the first portion is folded over, and the next person must try to reproduce the original sentence from the drawing. Then the drawing is folded over, and another illustration is produced.

The mutations can be hilarious. You don’t have to “know

Hunting! Ha ha!

Happy Thanksgiving

My company has been doing some Thanksgiving activities lately. It’s my responsibility to help design the activities to make them educational both in basic vocabulary as well as in cultural content. It’s also my responsibility to execute some of the activities. This involves such excellent speaking opportunities as explaining in Chinese to a group of kids the basic history and traditions of American Thanksgiving.

So the other day I found myself explaining to some kindergarteners about the Indians (my company’s …

Calvin & Hobbes in Chinese!

Ever since I first started reading it as a kid, I’ve always been a huge fan of Calvin & Hobbes. No other comic strip has ever impressed me on so many levels. I remember when I first came to China and brought presents for the special Chinese people that helped me get on my feet, the most prized ones I would give away were Calvin & Hobbes collections. They were one of the few really good items I could think …

To hanzify or not to hanzify…

Hanzi (汉字 or 漢字) is the Chinese word for “Chinese character.” The Chinese language has been written in hanzi for a very long time. As the Chinese tell me, hanzi have been in use since approximately 3000 years before the Big Bang. It’s quite a tradition.

When an institution has been in place for that long, it can be incredibly hard to implement change. For example, when the new Communist emperors wanted to reform and “simplify” hanzi, …

Translation Runaround

After reading my first article on the new group Chinese blog ³öÓï²»Ë×, Tian liked it so much that he decided to translate it.

So the article that I have written in Chinese, a second language to me, has been translated into English by a Chinese person for whom English is a second language. Crazy.…

Telling Anecdotes


Overheard in the office:


Girl A: 索性的索是…?

Girl B: 索尼的索。

Girl A: 哦,知道了。

Girl A: Which character is the 索 in 索性? [索性 is a not uncommon Chinese adverb meaning "simply."]

Girl B: The same as in “Sony”. [索尼 is the Chinese transliteration for "Sony." Its characters are meaningless, chosen for phonetic value only.]

Girl A: Oh, got it!


I recently had the 抽油烟机 in my apartment fixed. I’m not sure what it is …

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