Archive for Bilingualism

Sinitic languages in Singapore

From Coby Lubliner:

I have lately been watching an Australian TV series, "Serangoon Road," taking place in Singapore in the 1960s. The dialogue is mostly in English, but when it isn't it's in Mandarin, both among the Chinese and between them and the main character, an Australian who speaks it. I have so far heard no trace of any other Chinese. Is that realistic?

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Xi Jinping and his rookery

Bruce Humes saw this on NYT’s bilingual website in an article today entitled "China’s Leader Wears Many Hats, but Only One Jacket"*:

In summer, Mr. Xi follows tradition and wears a long-sleeved white shirt and dark trousers when mixing with ordinary folks. When accompanying officials follow suit, as they often do, they call to mind a rookery of emperor penguins. 

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The year of the Golden Monkey is truly excellent

Time for Chinese New Year celebrations.  This is the year of the Monkey.  In this article from the online China Times, the customary couplet (it's more of a singlet in this case) on red paper features an interlingual pun: the characters 金猴 ("golden monkey"), when read in Mandarin, are pronounced jīn hóu, which is a near homophone for the Taiwanese chin-hó 真好 ("truly good", i.e., "excellent").  Thus roughly the "peaceful golden monkey" becomes "peace is wonderful".

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More sound-loan Taiwanese

Michael Cannings sent in this photograph:

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Chinese-English rap

Thorin Engeseth writes:

I am a big fan of the English musician Tricky, who recently released an album with a song on it called "Beijing to Berlin".

According to an email his marketing team sent out:

The enigmatic voice on the single's A-side, "Beijing To Berlin," belongs to the Chinese rapper and producer Ivy 艾菲. Tricky explains: "I was in Beijing for a show and I met this guy who managed her. She's so different! So raw! The strange thing is, I've had the track for a while but I only just found out that she’s not rapping in Chinese. I ain’t got a clue what language it is. I have no idea. It might be completely made up but whatever it is, it sounds wicked."

I'm attaching a link to a video of the song here. I know very little about the languages of China, and am wondering if this song (a rap song) could just be in very heavily accented English, or is she making sounds up as she goes?

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Jeb's bilingualism

Jeb Bush gave a Spanish-language interview on Sunday with Telemundo's José Díaz-Balart. This is the first time since the launch of his presidential campaign that his functional bilingualism has been on full display.


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Digraphia and bilingualism in a Nissan ad

Photograph of a Chinese ad spotted in a Beijing elevator by David Moser, who also provided much of the analysis that follows:

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Writing English with Chinese characters

Sign on a pet-grooming place in Banqiao, Taiwan (contributed by Mark Swofford):

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"Purple mist coming from the east" cake

Here is an interesting picture that Francois Dube took today in a cakeshop in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui (Muslim) Autonomous Region, People's Republic of China:

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OMG! American English

The star of this popular Voice of America program is Jessica Beinecke (Bái Jié 白洁).  Her Mandarin is quite amazing; indeed, I would say that it is nothing short of phenomenal. Here's a sample:

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Obama's Indonesian: the grand finale

At the end of his abbreviated trip to Indonesia (cut short because of the volcanic eruptions of Mt. Merapi), President Obama gave a half-hour address at the University of Indonesia that finally showed off his skills in the Indonesian language, a subject we've been examining. Granted, it was a prepared speech, but Obama went out of his way to include Indonesian phrases and sentences that would resonate with the crowd (mostly composed of students and staff at UI), and he even worked in at least one ad-lib.

From the official transcript, here are the relevant Indonesian passages from the speech, accompanied by my quick analysis. (Video of the speech is available on C-SPAN here and on the White House site here.)

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Obama's Indonesian pleasantries: now with food!

In January 2009, soon after President Obama was sworn in, we had our first video evidence of his conversational skills in Indonesian, based on an exchange he had with a State Department staffer. (See "Obama's Indonesian pleasantries: the video.") As I said at the time, his experience of living in Indonesia from age six to ten had left him "if not bilingual, at least bi-courteous." Now Obama is on his long-delayed state visit to Indonesia, and he's been breaking out some more Indonesian pleasantries and showing off basic food-related etiquette.

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Bilingualism in Singapore

Within the short space of eight months, Singapore's founding Prime Minister and current Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, has done a nearly complete about-face in his attitude toward promoting the use of Mandarin in the republic.  As late as March of this year, when he was celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the campaign to "Speak Mandarin," Lee was claiming that "In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue.”

In those days, Lee was asserting that people have only so many “gigabytes” in their brains to devote to languages.  Though admitting that speaking “dialects” in some situations can provide “extra warmth,” he warned that, by using such languages, “You are losing important neurons with data which should not be there. And like the computer, when you delete it, it doesn’t really go away. It’s there at the back, and you’ve got to go to the rubbish channel and say ‘destroy.’ And it’s still disturbing your hard disk.”  (See this useful summary and detailed list of references by Mark Swofford.)

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