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 …


In order to become really fluent in a foreign language, it’s more than just a matter of learning vocabulary and grammar and stringing them together flawlessly. Some of the hardest aspects to master in order to sound truly native-like are intonation and accent. Usually there comes a point when, either through lack of effort or through linguistic inability, non-native speakers stop improving (look at Arnold Schwarzenegger). Linguists call this phenomenon fossilization. (The term fossilization is usually applied to …

What Does an Alien Sound Like When it Speaks Chinese?

My company is still busy preparing a bunch of short educational cartoons. They’re supposed to air on CCTV at the end of August, I think. (I’ll let you all know.)

Anyway, I seem to have been typecast. Last time I played the voice of a slow-witted pig named “Dudu” (the Chinese think this name is cute, and even after they found out what “doo-doo” means in English, refused to change his name!). For this recent run of cartoons, …

Debating “You’re Welcome”

One of the first phrases a student of a foreign language learns is “thank you,” followed closely by “you’re welcome.” Every culture has etiquette, and these two phrases are about as basic as etiquette can get. It’s best to keep things simple for a new learner. One-to-one vocabulary correspondences are easiest to accept for memorization.

When I learned Spanish, it was gracias and de nada. When I learned Japanese it was arigatou gozaimasu and dou

Creeping Japanese

Japanese was my major in college, but I’ve barely used it in these three years (almost four) that I’ve been in China. A testament to the worthlessness of a language degree? Or of any degree? Or have I just chosen a “career path” which renders my major particularly ineffectual?

I remember in my final year at UF I won an award for outstanding Japanese major of the year (I beat out the three other people in my class), and I …

Alcohol Vocab

I want to add more Chinese study material to Sinosplice, and the latest is a vocabulary list. Of Western alcohol. You won’t find any form of baijiu on the list, but if you ever wanted to know how to say “Guinness” or “Jim Beam” or “Sex on the Beach” in Chinese, this is for you.

It’s noteworthy that many of these names do not have a standard name (especially mixed drinks), so many variations are possible, but the names in …

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