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The shrimp and the cabbage are very intimate.
December 9, 2007 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Language log has uncovered the reason for the inappropriately common appearance of the word fuck in English translations on Chinese signs. One more Chinglish phenomenon explained.
posted by hindmost (72 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fuck the certain price of goods!
posted by grouse at 12:53 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Article really needs an abstract... I got a headache trying to read all that. Very interesting though.
posted by chips ahoy at 12:54 PM on December 9, 2007


What's the point of even including English if it makes no sense?
posted by smackfu at 12:57 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know why people suspect these translations are deliberately made to make the Chinese seem stupid. I think it makes them seem AWESOME.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:57 PM on December 9, 2007 [10 favorites]


"My hovercraft is full of eels."

Could it be so?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2007


I used the materials in the home assembly kit, and closely followed instructions that were provided. What, are you suggesting that I was supposed to screw the cabinet together?
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 1:15 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


And this is why I fucking hate simplified characters.
posted by casarkos at 1:17 PM on December 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


all this fucking also explains China's population phenomenon well
posted by umop-apisdn at 1:21 PM on December 9, 2007


Article really needs an abstract

The second paragraph is basically an abstract:
[...] several Chinese characters pronounced GAN1 or GAN4 [...] all got collapsed into one simplified character: 干. This has led to enormous confusion, especially when people who know next to no English rely on machine translation software to convert Chinese into English. The chaos caused by this combination of circumstances is vastly exacerbated by the fact that this little, three-stroke symbol also has a vulgar meaning when pronounced in the fourth tone, GAN4, namely "fuck," which is probably an extension of the regular sense of "do." Because GAN4 ("do") and GAN1 ("dry") are now both written with that little, three-stroke character, the damage is compounded by the enormous range of intended senses of GAN1/4 ("dry," "do," "act," "work," "undertake," "shield," "have to do with; be concerned with," "edge of a body of water," "be rude, impolite, blunt," "embarrass or annoy," "give the cold-shoulder to," "empty, hollow," measure word for a group of people, "trunk, stem, main part," "cadre," "competent, capable, able, talented," "go bad," "be a disaster," etc.), all of which are capable of coming out of the translation software as "fuck."
And this is why I fucking hate simplified characters.

This plus the fact that they're ugly as fuck.
posted by languagehat at 1:25 PM on December 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


Another mystery solved, to go with the stir-fried Wikipedia with pimientos.
posted by hattifattener at 1:31 PM on December 9, 2007


well, fuck Wikipedia.
posted by wendell at 1:33 PM on December 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


After trying for more than a year to find proof that the GAN1/4 = "fuck" mistranslation was indeed the result of relying on poor translation software, I am now able to demonstrate that this really does seem to be the case.

I'm glad someone is on the case.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:35 PM on December 9, 2007


Excellent. Now I can start on my Chinese translation of Soundgarden's Big Dumb Sex.
posted by Tube at 1:38 PM on December 9, 2007


What languagehat said. The traditional characters are so much easier to learn, too, because a lot of them kinda make sense once you know the radicals.

Spotting funny Chinglish sings was a cheap and fun pastime in Beijing. If I'd only thought to take photos... My favorite sign in the dorm bathrooms said "please mang after shit", which still gives me a chuckle.
posted by gemmy at 1:41 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I bow before the awesomeness of Victor Mair in most things Chinese linguistical, but he's hardly unveiling a solution to Fermat's Theorem here. The ubiquitous Jinshan Ciba and its ilk really are ridiculous and I think everyone's nown that for years except the poor monolingual sods commissioning these things.
I just did this clinic brochure this week that they had originally sent as a proof-reading job. It had "before" (前) and "after" (后) pictures of cosmetic treatment; the machine version they used was just bizarre; it had rendered 后 as "queen" which is indeed one meaning of the character but not just wrong in context but also much less common than "after" and "behind" and all that.
The only thing that still puzzles me about the regular appearance of "fuck" is that almost any naughty school kid here will be able to tell that shouldn't be appearing in a menu or on a sign, even if they've forgotten all the rest of their English.
Anyway, shall we move on to a pointless back-and-forth where I defend the aesthetic delights of simplified characters? Or shall we just let that one lie?
posted by Abiezer at 1:41 PM on December 9, 2007


I still think Racist Park is my fave bit of Chinglish, as it turned out to be a pretty honest name for the tacky "happy clappy song-and-dancey" minorities theme park it was advertising.
posted by Abiezer at 1:52 PM on December 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


In Hong Kong our translated English signs don't contain that problem as we still use traditional Chinese.

Most of the humour comes from mangled grammar and poor spelling.
posted by bwg at 2:34 PM on December 9, 2007


FUCK THE CERTAIN PRICE OF GOODS

Correct translation:
FUCK THE PRICE OF CERTAIN GOODS
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:41 PM on December 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


lh, you can't say that 干 is an ugly character. Sure, the simplified version of 東 is ugly (sorry, can't type it, using Japanese IME, not Chinese), but 干 looks just fine.

On the one hand, I'm happy to have read the article. On the other hand, it feels kinda like being told about your surprise party before it happens: sure, if I see "fuck" somewhere where it shouldn't be, I'll still find it amusing, but it won't give me the same "holy shit!! I need to take pictures of this and show it to all my friends!!" rush as it would if I encountered it unexpectedly.
posted by Bugbread at 2:43 PM on December 9, 2007


I dunno, weapons-grade pandemonium, I figured it was an exemplar of the Chinese penchant for haggling.
posted by grouse at 2:46 PM on December 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


Actually I've always felt that ? was an ugly character too.
posted by Flashman at 3:09 PM on December 9, 2007


i thought the author was overly apologetic for the "deplorable" "atrocity", i say that word all the time, just not with fruit as the object of the imperative. somewhere in the vast middle kingdom is a sign "fuck a duck".

oh, and "gold mountain word hegemon" would be a great name for a mefi account.
posted by bruce at 3:10 PM on December 9, 2007


smackfu: "What's the point of even including English if it makes no sense?"

That's kind of what the article was about.

The people using the poorly translating machines don't know English, and are relying on the machine to produce accurate renditions, which it isn't due to the multiple meanings inherent in the GAN4 or whatever, etc......

Really, you should just, you know, read the link.
posted by lazaruslong at 3:17 PM on December 9, 2007


Flashman writes "Actually I've always felt that ? was an ugly character too."

What's cool is that when I enter a Chinese character in my computer, your computer displays it as a question mark because you don't have a decent unicode font installed. But when you enter a question mark on your computer, my computer displays it as the Chinese for "fuck".
posted by Bugbread at 3:18 PM on December 9, 2007 [8 favorites]


lh, you can't say that 干 is an ugly character.

Well, I could if I wanted to, but actually I wasn't singling out that particular character, just saying that on the whole the simplified characters are ugly. To my eyes, needless to say, which were weaned on the good old traditional ones. I suppose if you grow up with these, they look fine.
posted by languagehat at 3:34 PM on December 9, 2007


Really, you should just, you know, read the link.

I did read the whole link, thank you. Or at least I looked at the pictures, and that's all that counts. I'm just amused by the silliness of including English to make things clearer to people who don't read Chinese, but then having the English be of such poor quality that the Chinese characters makes more sense.
posted by smackfu at 3:46 PM on December 9, 2007


For me it just varies character to character. If the simplified character looks like it could stand on its own, I generally prefer it, while if it looks like it would tip over, I prefer the old school. So I prefer 园 to 園, but I vastly prefer 広 to 广.
posted by Bugbread at 3:50 PM on December 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


I find "the shrimp fucks the cabbage" far more descriptive than ""stir-fried dried shrimp with bok choy". Sounds yummier too.
posted by telstar at 3:53 PM on December 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


Smackfu: Then you'd know that the answer to "What's the point of even including English if it makes no sense?" is "they believe it makes sense, so the point is to make things easy for non-Chinese English speakers". They fail at that goal, but that doesn't affect what the point is.
posted by Bugbread at 3:53 PM on December 9, 2007


It's amazing how uglily those characters are rendered when my browsing typeface is Verdana.
posted by grouse at 3:54 PM on December 9, 2007


And this is why I fucking hate simplified characters

Likewise.

Though it has to be said that I'm chauvinistic towards the post-war Japanese set that I learned on.

When my studies progressed to seeing the some of the pre-war characters, I could only be damn glad I didn't have to wade through those too (eg. 體 vs. 体), but for some reason I find the Maoist changes abhorrent.
posted by panamax at 3:57 PM on December 9, 2007


One good thing about the simplified characters is that they survive cheap printing or multiple photocopies pretty well. The really densely packed characters just turn into black squares after enough copies.
posted by Bugbread at 4:01 PM on December 9, 2007


bugbread, kinda like 国 vs. 國 I suppose.

What I hate is that the simplified the 言 and 糸 hens. Granted, Japan did the same wrt 示, but that simplification seems to be a longstanding convention.
posted by panamax at 4:02 PM on December 9, 2007


languagehat writes "To my eyes, needless to say, which were weaned on the good old traditional ones. I suppose if you grow up with these, they look fine."

I was weaned on a different set, the Japanese ones, so I guess I'm in a kinda neutral position: I wasn't raised with the traditional 繁体字, nor with the 簡体字, but a side-shoot mix. Which is probably why, unlike a lot of folks, I'm neither hardcore pro or anti 簡体字, but instead work it on a case-by-case basis.
posted by Bugbread at 4:15 PM on December 9, 2007


Can't believe they ruined karuma . . . 車 --> 车

Also, at work I had the occasion to run a Chinese XP install, and see that the mogrified the 開 character too (now it's just 开).
posted by panamax at 4:39 PM on December 9, 2007


Interesting. Nigger-brown couches just don't seem like a big deal anymore.
posted by phaedon at 4:51 PM on December 9, 2007


Say what you like about simplified characters, they're a lot easier to write with a biro. Not that that counts for much now it's all computer input.
In all honesty, I'm not particularly biased either way, and perhaps enjoy reading traditional characters 竖排 best of all, but it's wrong to knock a lot of the simplifications as design-by-committee. it was a very erudite committee apparently and pretty much all the simplification is picked up from exisitng ways of writing in running script and the like that had been around for centuries.
I seem to recall reading there was a fun period in the Cultural Revolution where it became politically dodgy to criticise any old badly mangled miswriting of a character if the person making the mistake was sufficiently proletarian, so some genuine howlers made it into signs and the like then.
posted by Abiezer at 5:09 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh man hindmost, what a great find. Love your post and got some wonderful bellylaughs reading the hilarious signs. Can only imagine the surprise of the English speaking visitors who saw them.

So interesting to learn about the GAN4 issue. thanks for the education.

Misspelled, cross-cultural silliness, communication glitches or quirky English signs and menus are a favorite of mine.

Other bad font fun.
posted by nickyskye at 6:10 PM on December 9, 2007


Every time I see food described as "the shrimp fucks the cabbage" I'm compelled to try it.

Good post hindmost.
posted by curlyelk at 6:34 PM on December 9, 2007


...a fun period in the Cultural Revolution where it became politically dodgy to criticise any old badly mangled miswriting of a character...

Abiezer: that stuff continues today. A few months ago the president of the China Writers' Association, Tie Ning, added an extra dot to 茂 (turning it into 荗) on a banner she wrote up for a literary magazine. Was it a mistake, or creative artistic expression? The op-ed pages argued back and forth for a week.

Also, for the sake of linguistic science, I just dug up an old CD of Kingsoft 2002 and installed it. The results: link. (The last line is from the translation of an academic paper that appeared in the Economic Administrative Cadre Bulletin; see ESWN for more.)
posted by zhwj at 7:01 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


"really grasp solid fuck" - now there's a policy I think we can rally the broad masses behind, comrade zhwj.
posted by Abiezer at 7:17 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


English: "Fuck to adjust the area"

Correct translation: "Dry Seasonings Section"
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:51 PM on December 9, 2007


As a youngun who started learning only simplified characters, traditional characters look kind of weird and "primitive" to me in the same way that seal script characters do - they look too much like pictures. Not abstracted enough.

About the 后 thing, it reminded me of CEDict and all the programs that use it to provide pop-up translations of stuff, for example DimSum. For some reason, it always picks the rarest, most uncommon usage and pronunciation of the character to display.
posted by pravit at 9:15 PM on December 9, 2007


It's generously helping to increase your word-power, pravit! Ahem.
Does anyone else recall some older propaganda thing from the ROC on Taiwan (I think) using the simplification to illustrate the evils of communism? The only one I remember is "They'll cut off the head of your son!" (兒 became 儿) but there was a whole list in that vein, some of it quite clever.
posted by Abiezer at 9:30 PM on December 9, 2007


This reminded me of a menu I encountered a couple of years ago in Tuscany- the foibles of translator software are not limited to Chinglish, as Nickyskye pointed out above....
menu 1
menu 2
menu 3
menu 4
menu 5
posted by drhydro at 9:32 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Nice to see verification of something that, as Abiezer pointed out, most of us have known or suspected for years.

gemmy -- were you at the Beida dorms too? I've got fond memories of the "mang out after shit" signs there. I'd been planning to steal one before I left, but unfortunately someone else beat me to it.

zhwj -- Adding an extra dot seems like it could be defensible given the long and glorious tradition of arbitrary expansion of characters -- whence 疆 from 畺 from 畕 etc.

Abiezer -- I've never seen the "cut off the head of your son" argument, but it sounds pretty cool, and about as rigorous as historical arguments against simplified characters. "They'll cut off your son's head!" and "They took the heart out of love!" seem a lot more persuasive than "They standardized on a simplification dating back to the Jin dynasty!" or "They systematized cursive simplifications!"
posted by bokane at 9:48 PM on December 9, 2007


It's generously helping to increase your word-power, pravit! Ahem.

Boo DimSum, Yay PlecoDict!
posted by pravit at 9:52 PM on December 9, 2007


Great post.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:06 PM on December 9, 2007


I think that actually was one of the other ones bokane (the "rip the heart out of love" thing). You weren't perchance previously employed in one of the shadowier branches of the Academia Sinica were you?
posted by Abiezer at 10:24 PM on December 9, 2007


No; I've just heard it so many times a an argument advanced by first-year students of Chinese who are trying to impress the new arrivals at the Bookworm. (Or on Livejournal.) I mean, there ARE legitimate arguments to be made against simplification, and not only on aesthetic grounds. Simplification has led to messes like that of 干, which has to do triple duty as 干 (stem) / 乾 (dry) / 幹 (do -> fuck), and to cases where instant recognition can become harder because of the decreased dissimilarities between characters.
I remember hearing a story, perhaps apocryphal, of some unfortunate woman who, unfamiliar with simplified characters, wrote out a banner proclaiming 毛主席无岁! (No years more of life to Chairman Mao!) instead of 毛主席万岁 (Ten-thousand years more of life to Chairman Mao!). And then the predictable happened.

...but at least the simplified characters helped her make the mistake faster...
posted by bokane at 10:42 PM on December 9, 2007


bokane - No, not the Beida dorms, the UIBE dorms, before I was made to move to the boring but comfortable foreign dorms there. I actually found a copy of that sign in a department store in Beijing somewhere (which I bought along with a "Please don't spit" sign) - it hangs in the guest bathroom to much amusement. :)

Abiezer -- I totally know the list you are talking about. I am pretty sure I have it somewhere in my office, along with all my other language stuff. I'll try to dig it up tomorrow.
posted by gemmy at 10:48 PM on December 9, 2007


chinese is a scary language, what with slight changes in intonation so completely changing the meaning. i'd be afraid to go to china and ask my host "do most chinese prefer american or japanese cars?" and have it come out "i would like to perform cunnilingus on your goat."
posted by bruce at 10:52 PM on December 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fuck the Ginger Water.
I'll have a Pesi-Cola.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:55 PM on December 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


That's actually one of the joys as a foreigner, bruce. You can say stuff like that and then pretend it was just your rubbish accent. Which in my case, I have no trouble convincing people is a likely culprit.
posted by Abiezer at 10:57 PM on December 9, 2007


Perhaps the translators read MetaFilter and assume it is an all-purpose word?
posted by Cranberry at 11:13 PM on December 9, 2007


There were many intelligent people who worked on the character simplifications, but they didn't implement their changes intelligently. There was no science behind these changes - no one bothered to actually do research to find out of the "simplified" characters were really easier to learn (they aren't) or faster to write (they are). Some of the characters have single strokes eliminated for no particular reason (來 vs 来)and others have the only element in the character that tells you its etymology eliminated (爱 is probably the most popular example). The simplified characters only make sense within their original context - as a step on the way to the complete elimination of Chinese characters. Once the PRC failed to implement the third simplified set, the entire reason for the simplified characters vanished along with those radically simplified forms.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:12 AM on December 10, 2007


1adam12 - yes. To hear Peter Hessler's account of it in Oracle Bones, it's still a source of much bitterness among the original linguists that the government never followed through on full Romanization of the script.
posted by bokane at 12:24 AM on December 10, 2007


Rule 34 on shrimp and cabbage?
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:43 AM on December 10, 2007


In Hong Kong our translated English signs don't contain that problem as we still use traditional Chinese.

No, it is because the English signs in Hong Kong are actually seen by English-speakers. And because most people in mainland China know fuck-all about English. But they apparently do know something about shrimp-cabbage relations that I did not.
posted by anotherbrick at 6:50 AM on December 10, 2007


Thank you, anotherbrick. The notion that machine translation would miraculously be fixed by a reversion to traditional characters is totally laughable: the problem here primarily a shitty segmentation algorithm (i.e. one that needs to make 干 the verb in something that isn't even a sentence). It's got nothing whatsoever to do with simplified characters, whatever their merits or demerits may be.
posted by bokane at 10:32 AM on December 10, 2007


Oh, wait, did I say thank you? I meant no thanks. But anyway, (no) thanks.
posted by bokane at 10:33 AM on December 10, 2007


bokane writes "The notion that machine translation would miraculously be fixed by a reversion to traditional characters is totally laughable: the problem here primarily a shitty segmentation algorithm (i.e. one that needs to make 干 the verb in something that isn't even a sentence). It's got nothing whatsoever to do with simplified characters, whatever their merits or demerits may be."

Er...you sure about that? This particular problem is because, as you say, 干 is the simplification for 干, 乾, and 幹. So if you don't use simplified characters, you don't get your machine translation substituting a definition for 幹 instead of 乾. Sure, you probably get lots of other problems, and lots of other bad machine translation, but I think bwg is correct in saying that they don't have this problem on their signs due to using the traditional forms.
posted by Bugbread at 12:03 PM on December 10, 2007


I wouldn't say it has absolutely absolutely nothing to do with simplified characters -- part of the reason for my original comment was that, as you said above, by sticking 干, 乾, and 幹 under the all-inclusive simplified 干 the chances of getting an unwanted "fuck" in your translation increased significantly.

I find it interesting that the translation software uses the "fuck" definition so much, or contains it all. One would think that a company whose customers might want to make a good impression on English speakers would deliberately try to avoid including swearwords, or flag their appearance, or something else to indicate that "fuck" is not polite public discourse.

(har har, "unwanted fuck")
posted by casarkos at 12:07 PM on December 10, 2007


Points to cassarkos on "unwanted fuck!"

But really, if it's going to come down to this, then why not have a debate about full romanization versus characters? I'm prepared to argue in favor of the former...
posted by bokane at 12:20 PM on December 10, 2007


I'm prepared to argue in favor of [full romanization]

Me too; in fact I've gotten into some pretty heated debates on that subject, some of the most heated in Taiwan (not with Chinese but with foreign students who, having taken years to master the characters, didn't want to hear it).
posted by languagehat at 1:01 PM on December 10, 2007


Is pinyin the same thing as romanization? I'm all in favor of making the language easier for Latin alphabet readers, but it took a long time to get that pinyin isn't supposed to be pronounced the way it's spelled.

(I learned on zhuyin, which is its own mess)
posted by casarkos at 1:26 PM on December 10, 2007


It doesn't necessarily have to be romanised (which smacks of cultural imperialism), but the ideographs are diabolically impractical and anything more phonetic would be an all-round win. Can't Japanese kana or Hangul be appropriated somehow?
posted by BobInce at 1:38 PM on December 10, 2007


You're rehearsing the debate that took place in the 50s: originally the plan was for full romanization (which would have been practicable under the Hanyu Pinyin Fang'an, which was intended for that purpose), but the government got cold feet -- supposedly after Stalin said that China should "have its own alphabet." (There were some awesome denunciations -- I seem to recall one claiming that Roman letters are inherently violent and imperialist.)
Zhuyin is a lazy hack; there are texts published in Pinyin which are completely intelligible. Had the system been put into its intended use, it might have brought about a literary renaissance among writers finally free to write the way people actually speak; instead, the Baihua movement has stalled.
posted by bokane at 2:06 PM on December 10, 2007


No, it is because the English signs in Hong Kong are actually seen by English-speakers.

You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. I've seen enough mangled signs to know that had they been seen by English speakers (or those enough fluency) they'd have been corrected.

*Apologies for the self-links; they make the point.
posted by bwg at 2:08 PM on December 10, 2007


I fully oppose all proposals to replace difficult to read writing systems with easy to read writing systems. Making them easy to read lowers the bar to them, allows more people to learn to read them, and allows less time to be devoted to reading and writing when learning a language. That means people get better at the language rapidly, instead of having their progress stymied by learning the reading and writing part. More people proficient in a language means more capable translators, which means lower pay for translations due to competition. And that's money out of my pocket.

</just being honest>
posted by Bugbread at 3:37 PM on December 10, 2007


"They'll cut off the head of your son!" (兒 became 儿)

Given that your son's head appears to have been a mortar and pestle to begin with ...

Eh. Movin' right along. Zhongwen.com has got some interesting observations on the simplification. My preferences tend to be case-by-case too. 個 when 个 is available? Ugh, clear win for simplified. 門 and all its derivatives? Fifty-fifty. Simplification looks all right and is genuinely helpful in small type or handwriting. And 車 vs. 车 as previously cited? Big lose.

I just wish that people who write Chinese learners' materials would stop trying to pretend that the un/simplified characters don't exist or aren't important. Guess what? In the real world, foreign users of Chinese are likely to have to deal with both early on. But most editors have decided that in print they're going to cater to one or the other, and the user has to catch as catch can (sucka).

A good semi-exception is the Chinese Link books, which concentrate on one side, but cover essential characters in both variants.

Far East Book Company's 3000-character dictionary is fairly cross-straits too: The alphabetization is by pinyin, but the pronunciation is also given in zhuyin; the stroke-order charts are for traditional, but the simplified is listed; and the official radical and stroke count are given for both. Unfortunately, the index by radicals is trad only.

Rick Harbaugh's character genealogy and dictionary at least lists the simplified forms, but I can't help wishing he'd integrated them into the trees just like the traditional forms. (Harbaugh also wins big for including a whole-word pinyin index.)

Ditto Clopper Almon's Field Guide to Chinese Characters: Decent system for finding characters, at least including both, but introduces a needless additional complication when looking up traditional characters, when it could have been a single process for either.

Related: Jack Halpern's Kodashi Learner's Dictionary (kanji) includes pre-war forms, so your lookup process need not crash and burn when you encounter one. (Plus, I am totally itching for his SKIP system to be redone for Chinese. Just a small little booklet to map from SKIP codes to (a) pinyin, and (b) radical/stroke count, something I could easily carry alongside a dictionary I already own ... how about it? Please?)

As to romanization ... hoo-eee. In (southern) Taiwan, romanization was all but useless to me: too many systems, too much ad-hoc romanization. I knew Hanyu Pinyin perfectly well, but what I generally got was a crazy mishmash of three other systems. I can't tell you how many times I was trying to learn some word and someone laboriously wrote me a totally unreadable string of Roman letters, when all I wanted was for them to say it more clearly a couple times. (Doesn't help that the area where romanizations disagree the most, namely in distinguishing dental from alveolopalatal from retroflex fricatives/affricates, is precisely where the Taiwanese accent flattens everything out.) Pretty soon I hacked Mark Rosenfelder's kana flashcards to teach myself zhuyin just so I could make people stop writing useless romanizations at me:

"I will write it for you using English letters, I can write the pinyin."
"Please write zhuyin, or just tell me the sounds slowly."
"It's OK, I can write it in pinyin."
"No, no, no! 不要 pinyin, 要 ㄅㄆㄇㄈ!"
"You know ㄅㄆㄇㄈ?!"
"Yes."
"Why?"
"Because ..." (suppresses rant about the myriad bastard offspring of Wade-Giles) "... it's better."
(ROC pride moment) "Oh!"

And, it turns out, zhuyin is a concise and unambiguous statement of precisely those phonological insights that you need to have to master pinyin. So I've become a fan.

Javascript Zhuyin flashcards available upon request.
posted by eritain at 3:44 PM on December 10, 2007 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: Oh, wait, did I say thank you? I meant no thanks.
posted by eritain at 3:45 PM on December 10, 2007


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