I found this image by chance when looking for something on Baidu image search. I’m not sure whether I should be disturbed or just amused.
I found this image by chance when looking for something on Baidu image search. I’m not sure whether I should be disturbed or just amused.
Since I personally verify every blog that is added to the China Blog List, I see a lot of blogs. Unfortunately, I have very little time these days to read blogs, and I’m not really looking for new ones to add to my reading list. One that nevertheless caught my attention, though, was Talk Talk China. I especially like DD’s entries.
There are not a lot of entries up yet, but these are the ones I liked:
– No, You’re Not Really Tone Deaf. Sometimes I feel this way, but I’d never write something like this. …but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it when someone else does!
– Beijing Cab Driver Excuses. Pretty funny. Read the comments… I found the comparison between Shanghai and Beijing cabbies to be kinda interesting.
A comment on my Origin of Koi entry led me to the Three Kingdoms Comic. Wow! Impressive. I’m not sure whether to be more impressed by the concept* or by the fact that it’s available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai! I haven’t gotten a chance to read them all yet, but I definitely will.
Since last year I’ve been a big fan of webcomics. My favorites:
– Dinosaur Comics. Ryan North’s sense of humor is the greatest. It amazes me how he can reuse the same panels over and over and still manage to crack me up every damn time.
– Perry Bible Fellowship. Reminds me of the Far Side, but it’s anything but derivitive.
– Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. Good concept, good (but slow-moving) story.
– Beaver and Steve. Weird humor, cute style.
– Questionable Content. Indie rock post-Friends twenty-something sitcom comic.
– A Softer World. Reminds me of SNL’s old “Deep Thoughts,” with accompanying photography.
* I know that the story of War of the Three Kingdoms has been done in comic form before, but this is a webcomic. Difference.
This morning when surfing CNN.com I ran across this ad for travel to Malaysia:
Truly Asia, eh? The implication there is that there are some “so-called Asia” nations that are actually no more than a bunch of posers. Which nations are the posers, I wonder? Anyone care to speculate?
I also began to wonder: does China have any similar tourism slogans, or is it too busy scaring off the rest of the world to bother? What slogans might China use if given the chance?
Here are a few suggestions:
– Asia-er than you.
– More Asia than you can handle.
– The only source of Asian culture.
– The real Asia. (don’t be fooled by imitators)
– Not as communist as you think.
Feel free to add your own.
First the hilarious South Park dodgeball episode (I hear that one provides great discussion material for the classroom), and now this! I’m definitely going to have to see this episode.
Winterson.com, a recent addition to the CBL, has an awesome entry entitled “episode iii, the backstroke of the west” (the title will make sense when you read the entry). I had a really good time writing my “Closer Subtitle Surrealism” entry, and it gave me ideas for other similar subtitle-related posts. Jeremy has beaten me to one of them: hilarious English subtitles on Hollywood films. This phenomenon comes about when pirates do their own shoddy English subtitles to new releases. Here is just one example (and not the best):
Be sure to read Winterson.com’s original entry for more. He also has an older entry with funny subtitles for Fahrenheit 9/11.
> To make the noodles, roll the dough into a long cylinder. Rub sesame oil over. Grab both ends of the dough. Twist the dough, and then pull it out, stretching your arms apart. Fold the dough in half. Continue stretching and folding the dough until it forms fine noodles.
You really have to see it to understand. It looks like it takes a lot of skill. I guess it’s not surprising, then, that there could be a school (拉面学校) for it:
Still, that’s pretty funny.
Ah, Angry Chinese Blogger… another one of those blogs I would read more often had I the time. He’s come up with a really funny post this time called What Not to Say in China. Anyone who has any idea what an “English Corner” in China is like will like this one. He provides great examples of how not to answer the typical English Corner questions. A quick sample:
Do you know about Chinese history?
– No, but it shouldn’t take me long to pick it up.
– No, but I would like you to tell me EVERYTHING.
– No, can you summarize it for me?
– No, but it doesn’t sound very important.
– I know the bits that your government didn��t tell you.
– I know what happened in 1949 and 1989.
Go read the rest. (If you’ve got comments, they’re best left on ACB’s blog.)
Via Peking Duck.
It was Brendan‘s idea, and then Prince Roy actually did it. He recorded his Chinese and then put it online for everyone to hear. He got a lot of (well-deserved) praise and some possibly very helpful criticism. I said I wasn’t interested in doing that.
Check out my recording. [Note: if you left click and play it directly through your browser, you may need to replay it at least once to get it to play right.] Comments and criticism are welcome. I’m working hard on improving my pronunciation. Sorry this MP3 is so short.
P.S. I should be studying right now.
At my girflriend’s urging I recently purchased my very first Bollywood movie. I only spent 7rmb on it, but watching it was a three-hour time investment. It was with much trepidation that I started viewing Veer-Zaara.
I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Pakistan was not portrayed nearly as negatively by Indian producer-director Yash Chopra as I had expected, and there were fewer song/dance scenes than I imagined. The story, while not what one would call “realistic,” was not as predictable as I had expected, either. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience. (Did I mention Bollywood actresses are really hot?)
The part I found funniest were some of the lines in a song called “Do Pal.” The song starts with a line which goes:
> Just for two moments, the caravans of our dreams made a stop
And then you went your way and I went mine.
Caravans of our dreams? Interesting lyrics. I was put on high cheese alert. My vigilance was richly rewarded. I found the following lines of the song especially amusing when I realized that they could be used as pickup lines! Here they are, copied directly from the subtitles, in English and Chinese:
> Was that really you or was it a luminous sunbeam?
> Was that you or was that the monsoon of my dreams?
> Was that you or was that a cloud of happiness?
> Was that you or was that just a fragrant wind?
> Was that you or were those songs resounding in the atmosphere?
> Was that you or was there magic in the air?
Sinosplice readers, you have a homework assignment. Get out there and use these pickup lines! Then report back by leaving a comment.
The astute observer might ask, “what is a post about Bollywood doing on a China-themed blog?” Ah, but I saw a pirated Chinese copy of this Bollywood movie, and even supplied some Chinese translations. How clever of me!
Everyone knows that in China piracy of American movies runs rampant. The USA acts all angry, and every now and then Beijing makes an attempt to do something about it in order to placate the WTO. Nothing new. I really couldn’t care less about Hollywood’s lost revenues. China’s pirated DVDs do affect my life in other less expected ways, however.
New American releases are obtained as early as possible and mass-produced in China quickly and cheaply. The earlier an eagerly awaited Hollywood title hits the streets in DVD form, the quicker it will be snatched up by movie fans. It should come as no surprise, then, that the quality of translation of the Chinese subtitles for these DVDs can be less than reliable. I’d say that the translations for Chinese subtitles on DVDs fit into three categories:
OK, so this whole situation is kind of funny… except for the fact that it can ruin my movie experiences. Why? Because if I’m watching an American movie with my girlfriend, she reads the subtitles. Conscientious boyfriend that I am, I can’t help but do periodic translation checks to ensure that my girlfriend is getting a decent idea of what’s going on. The more mistakes I notice, the more I pay attention to the subtitles so that I can clue her in on important dialogue. Often, before long I’m finding myself explaining the movie in Chinese instead of enjoying it. I guess I can live with that, though, since the movies cost $1 each.
But back to the absurdity of the whole thing. Can you imagine it? A Hollywood movie. The original dialogue has been chucked out the window, save for a few sturdy globs here and there. The rest of the dialogue has just been… made up. Fabricated. By some Chinese guy who’s undoubtedly poorly paid and under a lot of pressure to get the subtitles done now. And I don’t think I have to say that he’s unlikely to have a strong education in Western culture. That’s OK, he can still do subtitles for Western movies with themes ranging from terrorism to Catholic traditions to abnormal psychology. No problem.
The scary thing is that if he’s any good, some Chinese viewers might not realize they’ve been swindled. They may have gotten an alternate version of the story — which shared the same visuals as the original — that was convincing enough that they think they understood it as it was meant to be understood. “I thought the reviews said something about brilliant social commentary,” they reflect for just a few moments after finishing the movie. “Those silly Americans….”
Well, I can do more than just make suppositions, in this case. I actually transcribed a scene from a Chinese DVD copy of the Oscar-nominated film Closer. I transcribed the original English dialogue, but I also translated the Chinese subtitles into English for comparison.
Dan’s lines are in a rich blue. Alice’s lines are in a dark pink. Since the Chinese subtitles are only a shadow of their English counterparts, Dan’s lines translated from Chinese are in a lighter blue under the original, and Alice’s lines translated from Chinese are in a lighter pink under the original. I have added a 汉 at the beginning of the translated-from-Chinese lines just to keep it as clear as possible. You’ll find that it can be a little difficult keeping the parallel (occasionally intersecting) dialogues in your head at once.
(On the bus.)
A: How did you end up writing obituaries?
汉A: What kinds of things do you like?
D: Well, I had dreams of being a writer…
汉D: I like drinking beer.
D: But I had no voice — what am I saying??
汉D: But I don’t drink often. Also…
D: …I had no talent. So I ended up in obituaries, which is…
汉D: I love singing. I can sing many songs.
D: …the Siberia of journalism.
汉D: …including German folk songs.
A: Tell me what you do. I wanna imagine you in Siberia.
汉A: I hope I’ll have a chance to hear you sing.
D: Well… we call it “the obits page.”
汉D: Well… we don’t often sing.
D: There’s three of us. Me, Graham, and Harry.
汉D: Because everyone is really busy.
D: When I get to work, without fail — are you sure you wanna know?
汉D: Especially when I’m working. Extremely busy.
D: Well, if someone important died, we go to the “deep freeze.”
汉D: If someone died, we would sing the funeral hymn.
D: Which is, um, a computer file with all the obituaries, and we find that person’s life.
汉D: Although I rarely sing, singing is something I can’t do without in my life.
A: People’s obituaries are written while they’re still alive?
汉A: Do people like your singing?
D: Some people’s. Then Harry — he’s the editor — he decides who we’re going to lead with…
汉D: Some people. Sometimes we get invitations [to sing].
D: We make calls, we check facts…
汉D: Some are favors, some paid…
D: At six we stand around at the computer and look at the next day’s page…
汉D: We’re all happy to do it; the money doesn’t matter. It’s great.
D: …make final changes, add a few euphemisms for our own amusement…
汉D: It’s a kind of addiction. But it’s not like alcoholism.
A: Such as?
D: “He was a convivial fellow.” …meaning he was an alcoholic.
汉D: I have a really strange friend. A homosexual.
D: “He valued his privacy.” …gay. “Enjoyed his privacy” …raging queen.
汉D: But he’s content with his lot in life.
A: What would my euphemism be?
汉A: Guess what kind of person I am.
D: “She was disarming.”
汉D: You’re a cute girl.
A: That’s not a euphemism.
汉A: I’m not cute at all.
D: Yes it is.
汉D: Yes, you are.
(Some time passes…)
D: What were you doing in New York?
汉D: What were you doing in New York?
A: You know.
汉A: You know.
D: Well, no, I don’t… What, were you… studying?
汉D: No, I don’t know. Are you… studying?
A: Look at your little eyes.
汉A: Your eyes are so pretty.
D: I can’t see my little eyes.
汉D: Your eyes are even prettier.
Impressive, no? For my own amusement, I have graphed the two dialogues below:
I should note that the whole movie was not this bad. This is a particularly WTF scene subtitle-wise. The subtitles of my copy of Closer are probably halfway between the WTF and Hit and Miss categories overall. Love stories are not so hard to figure out, but a relatively inconsequential bus ride with few context clues just unleashes the imagination of the “translator,” it would seem.
This example, I’m afraid, is by no means unrepresentative of the subtitle work provided by the hard-working DVD pirates. What are the ramifications of this? Well, it means every time I talk to a Chinese person about a movie we’ve seen separately, I feel a gap. Sure, we watched the same movie, but we may very well have experienced a somewhat different story. Exaggeration? Perhaps. But then again, maybe every scene of that movie was translated similarly to the scene above. You just don’t know. Furthermore, until this situation changes, the average Chinese citizen’s efforts at foreign film appreciation have been thoroughly sabotaged.
Remember Alf? He used to keep a blog about his life in Hangzhou. Well, ever since Blogger became practically impossible to use in China, Alf has gone on hiatus. So, with his permission, I’ll share one of his recent photos.
Alf and Greg recently acted as European soldiers for a Chinese TV series. Altogether, there were only six foreigners to represent a British and a French army. How did they do it? Well, only one army was shown at a time, and the six foreigners were always in the front ranks of the army. Behind them were a whole bunch of Chinese guys in wigs. Alf played the French general (who spoke English), but he and the other five foreigners wore a different coat and hat than the one in this picture. Then, for the British army, another guy played the general and Alf and gang wore the outfit pictured here. Priceless.
Unfortunately, the lead actress was wounded during the filming, so the series might never see the TV screen.
“CS” is the abbreviation Chinese teenagers use for Counter Strike (rather than the Chinese name 反恐精英), the world’s most popular FPS network computer game. When I taught college English at ZUCC in Hangzhou, there were quite a few boys in my classes that were crazy about the game and devoted almost all their free time to playing it in internet cafes. They even got Wilson (who was teaching there then) to play them.
Tian has a funny post (with pictures!) about the Chinese military using CS as training. Check it out.
The name of the Christmas song “Jingle Bells” is 圣诞铃声 (something like “Christmas Bells”) in Chinese. But the famous English refrain “jingle bells, jingle bells” in Chinese is the onomatopoeic “叮叮当, 叮叮当,” which sounds like “ding ding dong, ding ding dong” to Western ears. It doesn’t sound at all like sleigh bells ringing to us, it just sounds really funny (or maybe like doorbells). In my experience, every Westerner who learns these Chinese lyrics busts out laughing.
I tried to find a Mandarin Chinese version of “Jingle Bells” using Baidu MP3 Search. All I turned up was a version which I originally thought was Cantonese, but two Cantonese-speaking friends say it isn’t. The refrain definitely sounds like “ding ding dong” though. My guess is it’s Vietnamese. Can anyone identify the language?
I was disappointed because I can’t understand the lyrics, but I think the song may sound even funnier this way. I’m not one to mock any language, but this song — like the Chinese version — just sounds really funny, for cultural reasons, I guess. Give it a listen:
Asian Jingle Bells (1.2MB MP3 file, 64kbps)
I was able to find the Mandarin “Jingle Bells” lyrics, but they obviously don’t match up to this MP3. If you’re interested in the Mandarin version, continue reading below.
I recently saw the movie Lost in Translation. My major in college was Japanese, I have lived in Kyoto for a year, and I still have friends there (both Japanese and foreign). So I had been looking forward to this movie for some time.
I liked the way the movie used language to alienate the characters, particularly in Bill Murray’s scenes — the Suntory photo shoot, the hospital visit, and the ridiculous talk show. There are no subtitles. The effect was a little spoiled for me because in each case I actually understood what the Japanese people were saying, but this really only added to the comic effect. (Here’s a translation of the first Suntory photo shoot to give you an idea.) I imagine a lot of the “acting” was really just improv between two people who really couldn’t communicate in real life.
(Of course, when I was laughing during these scenes and my girlfriend was only smiling, she wanted to know what was so funny, and then I needed to translate from Japanese to Chinese for her, which is a hard switch for me to make if my attention is partially diverted — which it was — so sometimes my “Japanese to Chinese translations” would come out as Japanese paraphrased in more Japanese. Oops. That really confused her.)
One of the reviewers on IMDb felt that the movie was overrated, and that Coppola largely ripped off Wong Kar-Wai. Interesting claim. I don’t know how much the movie was hyped overseas; I missed all that. I do know that I enjoyed the movie, but perhaps largely due to my familiarity with Japan on a personal level. I don’t usually enjoy Wong Kar-Wai’s movies.
One thing I hate about the American media is its neverending charade of “look how wacky those Japanese are!” The American media loves to find the most bizarre aspects of Japanese society and then exploit them. Yes, cultural differences are interesting, but the overall message that the media seems to be trying to convey is they’re not like us, and that can be dangerous. Lost in Translation presents cultural differences (and, indeed, even wackiness) in a way that seems very human. It didn’t annoy me; it made me smile. (Meanwhile my girlfriend, who has been to Japan but doesn’t speak much Japanese, was saying, “Haha, the Japanese really are like that!”)
I’d like to see Hollywood come out with more movies of this “being a foreigner in a distant land” variety. It seems like other countries do it a lot more. (I guess it’s because the terrorists, aliens, and natural disasters all converge on the USA every time, so naturally, that’s where we make the movies.) No, Midnight Express and Spy Game don’t count; that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Hollywood movies that address the reality of expat life. I’m sure you could get something equally entertaining set in Germany, Thailand, Hong Kong, or even (gasp!) Mainland China.[NOTE: I don’t pretend to be a movie expert, but that’s my take. I’d love to hear about other movies like this, or links to stories about Lost in Translation.]
Recently I was trying to design desktop wallpaper that would remind, encourage, and inspire me to study Chinese more. In doing so, I hit upon an amusing idea. Dashan is involved. (Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as interesting if you don’t read Chinese.) It’s a new Sinosplice original.
Anyway, check out Trash Talking Dashan!
See if you can guess what the deal is with this pic. Or, just be lazy and see below.
We ran into this guy in the Holiday Inn lobby. He was being interviewed, and he let me take his picture. This is how he advertises. Chuck has the (very short) story in his blog. This particular ad is for a soccer pool.