Meaningful Chinese Transliterations (for fun!)

One of the big headaches about learning Chinese is the relative dearth of cognates and loanwords. None of that “car” is “carro” stuff you get when you start learning Spanish. In fact, when you do learn words that were transliterated into English from Chinese (like 麦克风 for “microphone”), the result is often bizarre and a lot harder to learn than if it had been “more Chinese” (keep in mind that you also have to learn all the …

The Foreign Feel of a Chinese Transliteration

Foreign words, like “Minnesota” or “Kobe Bryant” or “Carrefour” often get “translated” into Chinese in a way that uses the original sounds of the words and tries to represent those in Chinese (thus, using Chinese characters). This process is called transliteration, or sometimes transcription (音译, which breaks down character by character into “sound translation” in Chinese). Thus, the three examples above become “Mingnisuda” (明尼苏达), “Kebi Bulai’ente” (科比·布莱恩特), and “Jialefu” (家乐福) in …

School’s out for April Fool’s Day

It’s April Fool’s Day (愚人节), and I don’t have anything special, but I just thought I’d share this cute photo I saw online:

IMG_1464

Here’s the original text:

放学了好开心

老胡快走~

好的~

我收拾一下书包

Here’s the text with punctuation (and pinyin tooltips added):

放学了,好开心!老胡,快走!

好的。我收拾一下书包。

And the translation:

School’s out. I’m so happy! Lao Hu, hurry up!

OK. Just packing up my book bag.

Have a good April Fool’s Day, 童鞋们 (that’s cutesy talk for 同学们).…

Chinese Emotions for which There Are No English Words

A friend pointed me to this article: Emotions For Which There Are No English Words. A nice intersection of some of my favorite topics: semantics, translation, psychology, and infographics. You’ll need to go to the site for the full infographic (it’s zoomable), but here are the Chinese words that make an appearance:

Some Emotions For Which There Are No English Words

The Chinese words are:

心疼: The feeling somewhere between sympathy and empathy, to feel the suffering of loved ones.

Literally, “heart aches.” This one isn’t too …

Japanese Fortune Cookies in China

As most of us in China know, fortune cookies are not a Chinese thing. They’re an American thing. ChinesePod just recently did a lesson on American Chinese Food, and user he2xu4 linked to this TED talk which gives more detail on the issue: Jennifer 8. Lee hunts for General Tso. (ChinesePod also once did a lesson on the fact that you can’t get fortune cookies in China.)

The thing is, it looks like now you can get fortune …

The Perils of “This Week” and “Next Week”

Sometimes Chinese seems to warp the fabric of space-time. It’s true; culture can warp our perception of reality with Sapir-Whorfian aplomb. I exaggerate, though; I’m talking about interpretations of the phrase “this week.”

At the crux of the matter is the fact that the Western American week starts on Sunday (星期天), whereas the Chinese week starts on Monday (星期一). Most of the time this causes no problems… Unless you’re trying to make plans for the

Translations of Butterfly (Linguistic Differences)

Via John Biesnecker:

Linguistic Differences (butterfly)

Sorry, I can’t credit the original author because I don’t know it. I added the Chinese translation into the mix (蝴蝶).

This is especially hilarious to me personally because I know very little German, but I actually learned the German word “schmetterling” long ago by chance, and found the word enormously amusing. Guess I’m not the only one!…

The Three De Song

Learners of Chinese confront the “de triple threat” of Chinese structural particles pretty early on. You see, there are three different characters to write what sounds exactly the same to the ear. The three characters are 的, 得, and 地, each pronounced “de” (neutral tone) when serving as a structural particle.

If you’re just trying to improve your listening and speaking, you don’t really need to worry about this issue. If you’re working on your writing, however, you’re going …

What can save this country?

In the wake of China’s recent bullet train disaster, I came across this poll on 开心网 (kaixin001.com):

What can save this country?

Transcription:

拿什么来拯救我们的国家? (最多可选5项)
  • 自由
  • 关爱
  • 文化
  • 勤勉
  • 责任
  • 法制
  • 经济
  • 信仰
  • 信任
  • 教育
  • 改革
  • 武器
  • 科技
  • 公平
  • 秩序
  • 第七感
  • 正义
  • 资源环境
  • 生命
  • 没希望 不想救了

Translation:

What can save our country? (choose no more than 5)
  • freedom
  • love
  • culture
  • diligence
  • responsibility
  • law
  • economics
  • faith
  • education
  • reform
  • weapons
  • technology
  • fairness
  • order
  • the 7th sense
  • justice
  • natural resources
  • life
  • there’s no hope; don’t want

Thoughts on an American Job Applicant on Chinese TV

非你莫属 Screenshot

I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally indulge in the Chinese dating show 非诚勿扰. There’s another one of these reality TV-type Chinese shows that I watch from time to time called 非你莫属 (English name: “Only You”). On this show, each entrant is a job applicant given a chance to explain the type of job he’s looking for and interview with a panel of 12 bosses right there on camera. If all goes well, the bosses make offers to the applicant, …

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