Wednesday, January 25, 2006

You speak Chinese?

Via the well-written baseball blog Dodger Thoughts, I saw this description of spoken Chinese, coming from a blog written by an American living in China. The article is a nice summation of what my goat has been telling me about Chinese language(s) for years; she can vouch for its difficulty (having become fluent in 6 languages at one time or another). Then again, maybe it's not so hard for the kids to learn (don't you love the pic of the child in this picture? it's like she's leading the pre-teen revolution).

a few other related notes:

- also good from the China blog is this article on names; dig the note about the John Denver concert.

- as I'm sure you know, there's actually no single Chinese language, but a few hundred. And they're often not very close at all; money quote from the article: "Linguists say the Wu dialect widely spoken in Shanghai, to take one prominent example, shares only about 31 percent lexical similarity with Mandarin, or roughly the same as English and French." So saying "You speak Chinese?" is like saying "You speak European?"

-- the above article was originally in the New York Times but is now behind a wall that you must pay to scale. I found it by looking up the article, getting the title, then Googling that, which led me to the full article at the author's website (which has lots of interesting Asian articles at it). The NY Times obviously doesn't want to be part of the world's intellectual community, given their recent Times Select non-service that hides their columnists from public view. And their archives only go back 2 weeks, unlike real news organizations like the BBC.

--- on the subject of The NY Times, the above, combined with the fact that they covered that idiot Judith Miller's ass during her recent imprisonment during Plamegate, used Miller to help trumpet WMD claims about Iraq, and that the paper that claims to be 'all the news that's fit to print' sat on the domestic spying story right before the 2004 presidential election makes it certain that I will never pay for the NY Times again.

- on a somewhat related thread, I'm reminded of the time several years ago when a friend of Korean descent said that one of her friends had said the following to her: "You're Korean? I thought you were Asian!" Rutgers, the best and brightest of New Jersey.


Anonymous mh said...

There's an interesting post about this (that I just scanned through old posts for ridiculously too long to find) at (3rd place first season America's Next Top Model, girlfriend to Shins keyboardist, official hot-nerd mascot - not that you care); her mother is a speech pathologist, and she wrote about why it's so difficult to learn some languages in relation to your native language (Sewell models in Hong Kong, and attempts to learn Cantonese have apparently been difficult).

anyhoo -

9:43 AM  

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