Archive for Bilingualism

Cantonese: good news and bad news

The good news is that it's a language.

The bad news is that you can't speak it.

"China's version of TikTok suspends users for speaking Cantonese:  ByteDance's short video app Douyin has been urging live streamers to switch to the country's official language", Abacus via SCMP (4/3/20)

I've been hearing similar reports concerning the use of Cantonese on other social media:  it is definitely discouraged or even forbidden.  At least, though, the Abacus article does not miscall Cantonese a dialect, but affords it the dignity of referring to it as a language.

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Sia suay (or xia suay): a Hokkien expression in Singapore English

Here at Language Log, we are quite familiar with Singapore English, which comes in two registers:  Singapore Standard English (SSE) and Singapore Colloquial English (Singlish).  The term we are discussing today can be used in either register.

This multipurpose expression is featured in connection with the COVID-19 crisis in two recent articles in The Independent:

I

"'Sia suay should be the word of the year…' Netizens take a dig at Chan Chun Sing now that panic buying is happening in many countries

Many netizens went online to say that those words had become a kind of catch phrase. It implies something that is a disgrace or an embarrassment", by Anna Maria Romero (3/5/20)

II

"'Let's not xia suay again, Singaporeans.' Netizens respond to Chan Chun Sing's assurance that the country has enough food supplies

Many people commented thanking him for issuing the reassuring update in such a quick manner and called for Singaporeans to stand united at this time", by Anna Maria Romero (3/17/20)

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Japanese-English digraphia in action

Stuart Luppescu saw this restaurant sign in Saitama, Fukaya:

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Sino-Manchu seals of the Xicom Emperor

Tweet by Sulaiman Gu:

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Topless meeting

From Nathan Hopson:

Can't believe I had never heard this marvelous Japanglish until now:

トップレス‐ミーティング(toppuresu mītingu = "topless meeting")or トップレス会議 (kaigi = meeting)

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Chinese acronyms

Apollo Wu sent in this list of what he calls "Chinese acronyms" (Romanizations, translations, links, and comments are by VHM):

GJBZ 国家标准 Guójiā biāozhǔn ("National Standard") — this is commonly reduced still further to "GB"

YDYL 一带一路 Yīdài yīlù ("One Belt, One Road" or "Belt and Road")

RMB 人民币 Rénmínbì ("RMB", the Chinese yuan)

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English incorporated in a Sinograph

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Wow Food

Carl Johnson sent in this nice bilingual pun:

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ESL spam scam? (updated)

I just got an email from WordPress notifying me of a comment awaiting approval at LAWnLinguistics. Here is the comment, in full:

This is Pam, and English is my 1st language. I'm for real, and would like you to get back in touch with me.

The comment makes four assertions:

  1. This is Pam
  2. English is my 1st language.
  3. I'm for real,
  4. and would like you to get back in touch with me.

It's almost certain that three of those four assertions are false. Does anyone want to guess which is the one that is true?

CLARIFICATION (after reading the first five or six comments, all guessing wrong): For the benefit of those who want to submit a guess, note that what prompted this post was the content of the comment, not anything about its word choice, syntax, punctuation, etc.

HINT (after reading more wrong guesses): Pragmatics.

HINT IN THE FORM OF A QUESTION (after reading still more guesses that are not only wrong but aren't even close): How often have you encountered a situation in which, upon your initial contact with someone who is a complete stranger, the first thing they say after introducing themself is "English [or some other language] is my 1st language?

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I [heart] you in Sino-English

Taken by Yuanfei Wang at a restaurant in Hangzhou:

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"Come, comrades, over there!"

There's a huge controversy over whether the police commander uses the Mandarin word "tóngzhìmen 同志们" ("comrades") at around 2:15 in this video:

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"HKers add oil"

Photograph in the Wall Street Journal, "Hong Kong Protesters Fill Streets in District With History of Violent Clashes:  Police are under pressure to contain weeks of tear-gas-soaked demonstrations against mainland China's growing influence", by John Lyons and Joyu Wang (8/3/19):

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Fluent bilingualism in Singapore

[This is a guest post by an anonymous correspondent in East Asia.]

I thought you might be interested in taking on the ignorance of remarks earlier today by Singapore's minister of education. He's headed toward "like, wow" territory.

Basically, he was speaking about Singapore expanding a program aimed at reinvigorating the learning of what it calls "mother-tongue languages," which are the main languages of Singapore other than English — even though English is increasingly the mother tongue of citizens there.

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