Archive for Multilingualism

"Add oil," Kongish!

Speakers of Kongish have three ways to write their equivalent of English "Go!":  1. "ga yao" (Cantonese Romanization of the wildly popular term), 2. 加油 (the Sinographic form of the Cantonese expression), 3. "add oil" (Chinglishy equivalent of the former two forms).

See this excellent article by Lisa Lim for a brief introduction to Kongish:

"Do you speak Kongish? Hong Kong protesters harness unique language code to empower and communicate:  The mixed code of romanised Cantonese and English has helped popularise phrases such as 'add oil', from Cantonese 'ga yau'", SCMP (30 Aug, 2019).  [VHM:  Includes a nice summary of Romanization efforts for Sinitic topolects from the late 16th century (Matteo Ricci) to the present.]

Illustration from the article:

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Green box deep male shrine

Photograph taken by Yuanfei Wang in Baihou Town 百侯镇, Tai Po 大埔, Guangdong Province:

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Mongolian script on RMB bills

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Can a person have more than one native language?, part 2

Based on these two tweets, this 85-year-old Swedish woman has at least two native tongues:

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Can a person have more than one native language?

The following paragraph began as a comment to this post:  "How to maintain first and second language skills" (4/25/19)

How can a person acquire not just one, but two or more native languages? Now in China, some parents aspire to help their children learn both Chinese and English as their native languages. But, considering the drastic differences between the two languages, it seems to be quite a difficult goal to achieve, to use both languages equally well. A very interesting case I met is a 6th grader from an international school, a Chinese boy who spoke fluent English but stammering Chinese. He had to stop to organize his Chinese when trying to express complicated ideas. His parents are both native Chinese, and they sent him to an international primary school. There are undoubtedly many other students like him, since China has so many international primary and secondary schools. Their parents must have taken great effort making English the first language of their children. But why? And in the almost monolingual Chinese environment, I wonder if English as their first language could be as equally efficient as that of a real native speaker.

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Mayor Pete's multilingualism

Sure, you may have heard that Pete Buttigieg, now on the presidential campaign trail, can speak a surprising number of languages. Now the Washington Post compiles the evidence in one video, under the appropriate headline, "Mayor Pete speaks a lot of languages, even when he's not fluent." In the video, Polyglot Pete shows off his varying skills in French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Farsi (aka Iranian Persian), Dari (aka Afghan Persian), and Norwegian. Oddly, there's no footage of him speaking Maltese, which is likely the foreign language in which he has the most fluency, given that his father is from Malta.

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Language in Shanghai during World War II and now

Two days ago, I called the attention of friends and colleagues to this recently published book:

Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, 1933-1947: A Selection of Documents (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018.

At 717 pages and with 184 primary documents in German, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Chinese, and Russian, this big volume was edited by Irene Eber (1929-2019), who passed away a few days ago.  Here's a short (7:26) video telling how she became a Sinologist.

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"Up" in Japanese and Chinese

Tong Wang told me that she just learned a new word.  It's "up主", a term borrowed from Japanese into Chinese, and refers to those who upload audio, video, or other resources to share on certain websites.

In this expression, zhǔ / nushi 主 means "master; lord; host; owner", etc. (it has many other meanings in other realms of discourse, e.g., "Allah; Lord; advocate; main; primary; principal", etc.)

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"Hello" sung by a Kazakh

Here is Dimash Kudaibergen singing "Hello":

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I don't feel OK

Viral meme in the Sinosphere:

Wǒ juédé bù OK 我覺得不OK ("I don't feel OK")

Variant:

Wǒ juédé hái OK 我覺得還OK ("I feel sort of OK")

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Creeping Romanization in Chinese, part 4

Overheard

After a race, one Beijing marathon runner asks another:

pb le méiyǒu  pb了沒有…? ("did you meet / match / make your personal best?")

méiyǒu 沒有 ("no")

wǒ de pb shì… 我的pb是… ("my personal best is…")

I don't even know if "pb" is used this way in English, but such usage of Romanization (abbreviations, words, phrases), which often amounts to Englishization, are widespread in China, particularly on social media.

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Receptive multilingualism

In the latest The Atlantic, Michael Erard describes a fascinating linguistic phenomenon:  "The Small Island Where 500 People Speak Nine Different Languages:  Its inhabitants can understand each other thanks to a peculiar linguistic phenomenon".

The article begins:

On South Goulburn Island, a small, forested isle off Australia's northern coast, a settlement called Warruwi Community consists of some 500 people who speak among themselves around nine different languages. This is one of the last places in Australia—and probably the world—where so many indigenous languages exist together. There's the Mawng language, but also one called Bininj Kunwok and another called Yolngu-Matha, and Burarra, Ndjébbana and Na-kara, Kunbarlang, Iwaidja, Torres Strait Creole, and English.

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Polyscriptal, multilingual packaging for thousand-year eggs

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