What did Huntsman say to Colbert in Mandarin?

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Former Republican presidential candidate (and former ambassador to China) Jon Huntsman was on "The Colbert Report" last night, and at the end of the interview Stephen Colbert asked him to say what he really thought about Mitt Romney, in Mandarin. You can see the exchange at the end of this video (skip to about 3 minutes in):

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jon Huntsman Pt. 2
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What did Huntsman say?

A transcription and translation:

Hǎo!  Wǒ gēn nǐ zhèyàng shuō. Wǒ xiǎng liǎng gè yuè yǐhòu, zhège Romney zhōuzhǎng huì yǒu hěnduō de chénggōng.

好! 我跟你这样说。  我想两个月以后, 这个Romney州长会有很多的成功。

"All right!  Let me put it this way.  I think that two months from now Governor Romney will have a lot of success."

(For further discussion of Huntsman's Mandarin skills, see Ben Zimmer's post from last year, "'Speaks Mandarin Chinese, and Hokkien… whatever that is.'")


  1. Nathan said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    Unfortunately for Romney, the election's slightly more than two months away. :-)

  2. arthur waldron said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    I wish Huntsman had stayed in the race. What better preparation for the REAL issues we face than service in China, knowledge of Asia, and knowledge of two Chinese forms of speech?

  3. Nathan Myers said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    This reminds me of something I have long wished to know. How do you say "White man speak with forkếd tongue" in Mandarin?

  4. Victor Mair said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 7:19 pm

    I should have pointed out that, although Huntsman's pronunciation is quite good, "hěnduō de chénggōng" 很多的成功 ("a lot of success") is pretty awkward.

  5. Carl Pham said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

    You're kidding, I hope, Arthur.

    Three straight years of 8% unemployment, housing continuing its slide, student loan debt skyrocketing, more long-term unemployed than ever before, economic growth so anemic that it practically guarantees steadily declining standards of living (because it doesn't keep up with population growth), exploding costs of Medicare, $1 trillion defiicits as far as the eye can see, the price of gas closing in on $5 a gallon and the price of food set to go through the roof next year….

    And you're thinking speaking Chinese is the key leadership skill we need?

    Why not Esperanto? Why not a familiarity with calculus, or astrology?

  6. Saint Obama said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

    Carl, You seemed confused by the events in history. Our unemployment rate is high due to the promise of laser focus the republicans failed to deliver. Housing is rebounding, so your wronqg about that, student debt is a Bush made problem that president obama fixed without the republicans help. Affordable Health care bill has tamed the medicare costs. Also 5 dollar gas, well when did it go down last? It was higher when Bush was in office.

    Why did Bush or Cheny not attend the convention in tampa? Just a bad joke thay did not want around.

    Sad thing Huntsman has more good idea's than anything i have heard from Romney. What does he stand for? He was for it before he was against it, mr flip flop.

  7. Matthew said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

    Colbert: "Looking back, what would you had to have done…?" Is there a post on this construction?

  8. Randy Alexander said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

    Not only is his pronunciation pretty good, but his whole manner of communicating changes — his facial expressions, the way he breaks the phrases.

    He seems to keep his lips in a more rounded shape when he speaks Mandarin. I've noticed that some native speakers do that, but it seems to be idiosyncratic more than something that is tied to a specific region.

  9. S. Tsow said,

    August 31, 2012 @ 11:34 pm

    I'm still waiting to know how you say "White man speak with forked tongue" in Mandarin. Has to be "Bai ren…" something.

  10. W. Sun said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

    @S. Tsow & N. Mayer
    It depends on what you don't want to lose in translation, since it is an idiom of native American origin without Chinese equivalent. The first translation I instinctively came up with is 口(kǒu) 是(shì) 心(xīn) 非(fēi), to say yes but think no; given the context in which N. Mayer asked the question (because I think Mayer probably thinks that Huntsman is being 口(kǒu) 是(shì) 心(xīn) 非(fēi); why else ask the question here?). But it loses the maliciousness in how "to speak with forked tongue" means "to 'deliberately' say one thing but mean another," and so I came up with 口(kǒu) 蜜(mì) 腹(fù) 劍(jiàn); to speak with honey in mouth but dagger/sword in abdomen. Then I looked up 口(kǒu) 蜜(mì) 腹(fù) 劍 and found a synonym 佛(fó) 口(kǒu) 蛇(shé) 心(xīn), which means to speak with Buddha'a mouth and snake's heart and preserves the snake reference. But if what you don't want to lose is the native American reference, then maybe you should do a literal translation.

    Two existing translations I found online are
    1.說(shuō) 謊(huǎng). i.e. to lie; This is a beautiful translation because it sliced through the phrase with Occam's razor; it all boils down to lying, isn't it?
    2.白(bái) 人(rén) 不(bù) 講(jiǎng) 誠(chéng) 信(xìn) ,口(kǒu) 是(shì) 心(xīn) 非(fēi) 。Literally: White men do not speak of honesty and trust, they say one thing but think another. This is a better translation because it matches the historical context.

  11. Greg Coladonato said,

    September 2, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    Isn't 'liange yue yihou' also ungrammatical in this use? Wouldn't 'liange yue lai' be better? Forgive me if my own Chinese is too rusty.

  12. Greg Coladonato said,

    September 2, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

    Would 'liange yue yilai' be even better?

  13. Eric said,

    September 3, 2012 @ 3:02 am

    Thank you, Professor Mair.
    As soon as I heard that come out of his mouth I knew I could count on finding a translation from you here.

  14. Chaon said,

    September 4, 2012 @ 3:21 am

    "Isn't 'liange yue yihou' also ungrammatical in this use?"

    Greg, I hope not. Because that is exactly how I would say it. Remember that Huntsman's formative time in learning Chinese was in Taiwan, and I think his Chinese reflects this.

    Having said that, I don't think I've ever heard "hěnduō de chénggōng" in any context. And I'm pushing twenty years here.

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