Times Online Fumbles Pinyin

Reader Ash (of China Car Times) points out that Times Online is doing a “learn Mandarin Chinese” feature, complete with audio.

This is cool and all, but I found their online transcript a bit disturbing. A sample from Lesson 6:

> Part 1: Taking a train

> Clerk Qù nâr?
Leigh Qù Xî’ân.
Clerk Jî zhâng?
Leigh Liâng zhâng.

So, first and third tones don’t need to be distinguished, and pinyin conventions for how to write tone marks can be discarded at will?

I have a feeling someone made this call because there were pinyin encoding issues when proper tones were used. Still, this is pretty bad.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Mark in Dunan Says: February 14, 2007 at 2:24 am

    Both the first tones (vowels with macrons) and the third tones (haceks) are outside the 8-bit character set; only people who care about Chinese and have some computer know-how will bother to get ti right.

    You just know some editor tried to load the initially-correct content with the wrong browser or fonts and decided to make a change, gambling that the readers wouldn’t care… they could have made the transcriptions as graphics instead!

  2. That’s horrible! They should use my pinyin tone tool. 😀

  3. Haha. How in the world can they miss that one. (I suppose that’s probably unlikely, which would make it deliberate and all them more dumbfounding…)

  4. Mark, computers just about everywhere support unicode, these days. The site you’re reading right now is UTF-8.

  5. I always type pinin with numbers rather than trying to make the tone symbols themself…it’s much more convenient, for example wo3 shi4 zhong1 guo2 ren2

  6. oops…misspelled pin yin…better point that out first before somebody else beats me to it.

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