- Website: https://www.sas.upenn.edu/ealc/mair
Posts by Victor Mair:
Back in mid-December, 2013, I started assembling materials for a post about the differences between Chinese and Japanese writing. I think that someone (I forget who) sent me a couple of links that stimulated me to think about this topic, and then I added some things of my own. That was about as far as I got, though, so the would-be post was filed away in my drafts folder until I stumbled upon it today.
Xinhua / New China informs us:
After attending a 10-day literacy course, Zhao Shunjin, who had never learned to read or write, mastered over 100 Chinese characters at the age of 100.
Zhao, a former vegetable vendor from Hangzhou City in east China's Zhejiang Province, had never been to school and knew no characters except her own name before taking the course, part of a government-funded program.
Most people who applied for the community literacy classes were aged 70 to 80.
A census in 2010 found China's illiteracy rate was 4.88 percent, compared with 80 percent after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, thanks to a campaign that began in the 1950s.
It seems impossible, but the news is being trumpeted all over the world: the reigning champion of Francophone Scrabble cannot speak French.
President of the Christchurch Scrabble club Shirley Hol said the French win was "quite remarkable".
She was told about his victory on Monday and said from what she had heard the French were quite "gobsmacked".
"I think one of the comments was 'Are you extra-terrestrial or something?' Because it was so amazing."
Matt Keefe came across this sign on a San Francisco streetcar in April:
On his blog, "Throwing Pebbles", the journalist Yuen Chan describes how hard it is nowadays to find a decent elementary school in Hong Kong that offers instruction in Cantonese, rather than in Mandarin:
This despite the fact that Cantonese is the mother tongue of around 90% of the population of Hong Kong.
Occasionally one encounters pinyin with no hanzi (Chinese characters); see at the bottom of this photograph taken by Randy Alexander at a small mall right across from the main entrance to Xiamen (Amoy) University:
When it comes to linguistics, convincing, worthwhile presentations (such as those by John McWhorter and Steven Pinker) are rare on TED; more typical are poorer ones (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, and here).
If that is true for TED, then I wouldn't expect better from TEDx. Indeed, the one TEDx program on linguistics that I have seen, which was published on November 20, 2013, has garnered a viral 5,859,273 views, and is still soaring, having received an additional two hundred thousand or so views since I saw it a couple of days ago — but it is a travesty of language pedagogy.
Headline from the China Daily:
"China reigns in brutal police tactics" (9/9/03)
This hilarious misspelling causes China's widest circulating English-language newspaper accidentally to have a true headline.
I love dictionaries as much as anyone, but I'm not sure that I'd ever advocate making a film about any of my favorite dictionaries. Yet this has now been suggested for the Xīnhuá zìdiǎn 新华字典 (trad. 新華字典) (New China character dictionary):
"Will You Watch a Movie Based on Dictionary?" (Anhui News 7/8/15)
At first, one might think this is satire, but when you read this Chinese article about it, you realize they're serious.
I want to dedicate a book to a female editor and decided to refer to her in French as "éditeur extraordinaire", but then had second thoughts because I was afraid I might have the gender wrong. On the other hand, I was concerned that "éditrice" might have the same sort of connotations as "poetess" or "authoress" in English. So I asked a number of French friends and American colleagues with native French fluency who have lived in France for many years what they thought it should be. Here are the results:
From Wei comes this photograph of a sign on a deli that they took the other day in Guangzhou:
Chǎogǔ 炒股 (lit., "stir-fry stock") means playing with stocks and bonds (stock market speculation). This is probably THE hottest term in the PRC vocabulary today. The term itself is not in the following widely circulating cartoon, but the spirit of the term is very much present:
It's a bit of a mystery how and why "outsiders" (wàidìrén 外地人) are referred to by Shanghainese as "hard disks / drives" (yìngpán 硬盘).
Intrigued, I asked around, and here are some of the replies I received.