Archive for Multilingualism

Multilingual China

That's the title of a new book from Routledge edited by Bob Adamson and Anwei Feng:  Multilingual China:  National, Minority and Foreign Languages (2022).

China is often touted as a nation of linguistic uniformity, when nothing could be further from the truth.  This book is testimony to the astonishing variety of the languages and topolects spoken in the People's Republic of China.

Multilingual China explores the dynamics of multilingualism in one of the most multilingual countries in the world. This edited collection comprises frontline empirical research into a range of important issues that arise from the presence of 55 official ethnic minority groups, plus China’s search to modernize and strengthen the nation’s place in the world order.

Topics focus on the dynamics of national, ethnic minority and foreign languages in use, policy making and education, inside China and beyond. Micro-studies of language contact and variation are included, as are chapters dealing with multilingual media and linguistic landscapes. The book highlights tensions such as threats to the sustainability of weak languages and dialects, the role and status of foreign languages (especially English) and how Chinese can be presented as a viable regional or international language.

Multilingual China will appeal to academics and researchers working in multilingualism and multilingual education, as well as sinologists keen to examine the interplay of languages in this complex multilingual context.

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Another multilingual, multiscriptal sign in Taiwan

Mark Swofford sent in this photograph of a clever, curious sign at an automobile repair shop in Taiwan:

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"Marriage escape wheat egg"

Outside a hotel near Sanyi, Miaoli County, Taiwan:

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Chicken hegemon

From Mark Swofford:

The back of a restaurant stand going up in front of the Banqiao train station as part of a temporary market for the Christmas season.

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Diametrically opposed language policies

On one side of the Taiwan Strait, yesterday the PRC announced its draconian language policy for the coming decades:

"Important new policies on language and script in the PRC" (11/30/21)

Meanwhile, on the other side, Taiwan proclaimed a very different aspiration:

"2030 bilingual policy to help Taiwan connect with the world: NDC head", Focus Taiwan (12/1/21)

The policies are nothing new for either side, simply an intensification of their goals in recent years, the PRC more toward language standardization and monolingualism, and Taiwan more toward linguistic diversification and multilingualism.

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Translanguaging again

(This morning's post offers a bit of mostly-lexicographical follow-up to "Translanguaging", 5/4/2018…)

The verb "to translanguage", glossed by Wiktionary as "To make use of multiple languages in a single discourse", apparently emerged several decades ago in discussion of language policy and education in Wales, and has been widely used since then, both as a verb and a noun, in publications on language instruction. A separate coinage seems to have occurred in naming "The Translanguage English Database", documented in this 1994 paper and published in 2002 by the LDC and ELRA. (My memory is that this collection was originally referred to as "The Terrible English Database", with the name later changed to preserve the TED acronym while avoiding the offensively evaluative adjective…)

The participle "translanguaging", which Wiktionary glosses somewhat oddly in its nominal form as "The dynamic process whereby multilingual language users mediate complex social and cognitive activities through strategic employment of multiple semiotic resources to act, to know, and to be", seems to have become even commoner in the literature indexed by Google Scholar.

Despite their relatively widespread usage, neither of these words has had its (metaphorical) "Word Induction Ceremony", at either the Oxford English Dictionary or Merriam-Webster.

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Speaking Taiwanese as a Second Language in Taiwan

Provocative Twitter thread:

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Cantonese ad for teppan steak

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Sino-French language lessons

Chinese signs from Quora.  Since they are rather lengthy and come with French explanations, I will depart from my usual Language Log treatment of providing Romanizations, transcriptions, and translations for the Chinese.  Instead, I will only give English translations (based mainly on Google translations of the French, with slight modifications).

En raison de la population nombreuse et du nombre insuffisant d'agents de police, les Chinois ont développé une culture unique en matière de panneaux d'avertissement intimidants :

Panneau de signalisation : "Veuillez conduire en toute sécurité, il n'y a pas d'hôpital à proximité".

Due to the large population and insufficient number of police officers, the Chinese have developed a unique culture of intimidating warning signs.

Warning sign: "Please drive safely, there is no hospital nearby".

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Boris Johnson: "prenez un grip", "donnez-moi un break"

Spectacular code-switching:

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Chinese, English, and Japanese toilet instructions

Sol Jung, a former Penn undergrad, took this photograph more than a decade ago, but I'm only now getting around to posting on it.

There's quite a story behind the photograph and why it took me so long to write this blog post about it.  I will explain below.

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Taiwanese / Hokkien in Sino-Japanese script, part 2

[This is a guest post by Ying-Che Li]

Being Taiwanese myself, I very much appreciate Victor’s frequent attention to Taiwanese code utility, code crossing, and other linguistic phenomena, which interestingly reflect Taiwan’s current political and cultural atmosphere.

I have several immediate comments after reading Victor’s two recent postings on Taiwanese. As I became immersed in writing, though, it has turned into a longish reflection unexpectedly.

1 I admire Victor’s (and others’) explication of layers of nuances and his insightful ideas on the ‘vulgar’ expression discussed.

2 To me, the ‘vulgar’ and the intentionally sexual implication in the Taiwanese expression was here used as a specifically reactionary retort to the notorious internet and campaign speech vulgarities of Kaohsiung mayor, Han Kuo-yu (Kuomintang [KMT] presidential candidate), which invariably exhibit his sexually explicit tendencies and his chauvinism (and his womanizing habits). Han, unfortunately, attracts huge followers (many of whom are descendants of 眷村 juancun, the military dependent villages, Han being one himself), even now, and they take his big promises, such as 大家發大財 dajia fa dacai,  ‘I’ll make everyone rich’ (echoing Trump’s slogan of ‘making America great’) at their face value.

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Tsai Ing-wen's multilingual New Year's greetings

The multilingual part of this message from the President of Taiwan comes near the end of this 2:26 Twitter video:

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