Posts Tagged ‘chinese culture’

I very like Chinese-ordered English

peckishlaowai Posted in Learning Mandarin,Tags: , , ,

Maple leaves and Chinglish Dangerous - but COE is ok :)COE or Chinese Ordered English is a term I only discovered about three nights before on Wikipedia. (I found it when I browsed the web instead of finishing my blog post which, at the time dealt with another topic entirely.)

This “technique” is one I’ve been consciously, purposely and subconsciously using on an off ever since I started learning Mandarin. In fact my old Mandarin course books always indicated this type of direct translation alongside the “normal” English translation. (My text books never actually mentioned anything about COE and it never explicitly made it into a “thing” – it was just given as a way I guess to get familiar with Mandarin sentence structure.)

When you’re learning Mandarin and you’re applying COE, it essentially means you let your good English grammar fly out the window and you get all down and dirty and really translate a Mandarin sentence very directly – or as directly as you can into English. It’s a great way to get a feel for Mandarin sentences and structure and in my humble opinion is probably one of the best ways to do this. (Actually not sure how I would have tackled Mandarin had I not used such a method in the first instance.)

This Wikipedia article on Chinese-Ordered English has its own example sentence to illustrate the concept but I like to use my own – a sentence that at one point at least a few years ago in my life had been true and applied to my life, so I was happy to figure this sentence out back then: :)

Hànzì: 我每天在办公室吃早饭
Pinyin: Wǒ měi tiān zài bàngōngshì chī zǎofàn
COE: I every day at the office each breakfast
English: I eat breakfast at the office every day.
(As an aside: The logic in Chinese is that you first have to be at the place before you can complete the action. Time words too are also placed at the beginning of a sentence instead of at the end.)

Below are a few examples that illustrate COE in action (with my comments off course):

Example 1:
I know little about New Zealand’s affairs.
Wǒ duì xīnxīlán de shìqíng zhīdào yīdiǎn
COE: I toward New Zealand de matters know a little.

Example 2
My Mandarin is not as good as your English.
Wǒ de zhōngwén méiyǒu nǐ de yīngwén hǎo
COE: My Chinese not has your de English good.

Example 3:
I don’t agree with you.
Wǒ bù tóngyì nǐ
COE: I not agree you.

(My language exchange partner gave me this sentence but I am often tempted to say ‘Wǒ bù gēn nǐ tóngyì / 我不跟你同意) – it feels right to me but I’m not sure if this is actually correct. If you can shed light on this one please do…)

Example 4:
My house is close to that restaurant.
Wǒ jiā zài nàgè fànguǎn fùjìn
COE: My house at that restaurant nearby / vicinity.

Example 5:
What are you interested in?
Nǐ duì shénme yǒu xìngqù?
COE: You toward what have interest?

Example 6:
He goes to Taipei for business by airplane.
Tā zuò fēijī dào táiběi qù zuò shēngyì
COE: He sit airplane to Taipei go do business.

(Once again the logic is that first you get on the airplane then you go the country and then you do can do your business.)

Example 7:
Where do I get off ?
Zài nàlǐ xià chē?
COE: At where off car?

Example 8:
There are people in the room.
Wūzi li yǒu rén
COE: Room inside has people

Example 9
There is a chair behind me.
Wǒ hòumiàn yǒu yǐzi
COE: My behind has chair.

This one is funny – cause if you literally translate it, it’s like this – ‘my behind has chair’ – except that my behind does not have a chair on it, neither is my behind actually on the chair. It just means there’s a chair behind me.

Example 10
I want to drink (a cup of) coffee.
Wǒ xiǎng hē yībēi kāfēi
COE: I wish drink one cup / a cup coffee.

Hopefully your understanding and grammar of the English language remains intact after all of that…

If you’re not using COE – then by all means let me know why not and how you’re coping, cause I VERY like Chinese-Ordered English. :)

I can’t quite imagine studying Mandarin any other way, i.e without applying COE. So share with me your thoughts if you wish :)

What’s in a Chinese name?

peckishlaowai Posted in China,Tags: , ,
To name and how to name: those are the questions

Before you choose a Chinese name it’s probably a good idea to understand how you might use it in China – and when and how it would be useful to have a Chinese name. As far as I am concerned, these are some of the reasons you should consider getting a Chinese name:

  • You’ll often find yourself in situations where Chinese people ask you if you have a Chinese name – thus probably good for general conversation.
  • Pronunciation difficulties for Chinese: offering a Chinese equivalent could be helpful to Chinese that have difficulty pronouncing difficult or unusual English or other Western names.
  • If you have a business card, typically you’d have one side in English and the other side in Chinese showing your Chinese name. I guess this is a must-have in China. (Apparently having an auspicious name is even better for generating business leads.)
  • Having a Chinese name at least shows you are interested in their culture and that you’ve gone to some effort to obtain a name in a format familiar to them.

Way back in 2007 before I went to China I got a Chinese name. I did everything I should have – I had it checked and prepared by my Chinese University professor – a native speaker from Taiwan. She presented two or three options to me and I made my choice. I did think the name unusual at the time but since I didn’t know much about Chinese names to begin with, I didn’t question the name at all. I just went with it.

These were two of my choices with the surname first 富爱美 and 富爱梅。 They translate as such:
富爱美 – Good fortune, abundance, wealth / Love / Beautiful
富爱梅 – Good fortune, abundance, wealth / Love / Plum

I chose the first one: 富爱美
(Some background – all three characters “closely” match the sounds in my Western name.)

You’re probably laughing at me right now – that’s ok by me – it’s happened many times before, in fact my Chinese name always seems to amuse Chinese people or have them laugh at me. (I haven’t tried it on foreigners yet – this is a first.)

I’ll share with you some of the responses I’ve had:
Scenario 1:
I’m standing in class with my students in Nanjing, and am asked by one of the students what my Chinese name is. “富爱美” I reply. Class laughs. I think to myself “something’s wrong with my Chinese name” and I’m a bit too embarrassed to ask them why they’re laughing.

Scenario 2:
Chinese tutor (40 year old woman)also an educated University teacher in Nanjing asks me my Chinese name. ‘富爱美’ I reply. She laughs. “What’s wrong with it?”, I ask.

She replies”我的妈妈喜欢这个名子。 我不喜欢这个名子”. Great – it’s old-fashioned I think to myself.

Scenario 3:
I share my name with another professor at university. Yip you guessed it – he laughs too. “Ah you want to be wealthy, and you love to be beautiful or love beautiful things”. Great I think to myself – I sound superficial. I should get this name thing fixed.

Scenario 4:
I share my name with a Chinese guy from Australia – he laughs too. He says – “Ah, awesome, it’s like you want to embody all of the most superficial things in life, you want to be rich and you love beautiful things or you want to be beautiful. Awesome”.

Strange – I kind of thought this name would sit well with most modern Chinese ambitions – aren’t these the things that most people (not just Chinese) aspire to?

Where does this leave me though? I probably need to rethink my Chinese name – a few years down the line and I’d like to believe that I’m a bit wiser… There’s no hurry though but I thought I’d share with you my experience in getting and using a Chinese name.

Thus dear readers – I have a few questions for you:

  • Have you ever had any issues with your Chinese name? How do Chinese people react to it?
  • Does having a Chinese name, make you feel more integrated or not? Is having a Chinese name useful to you?
  • When Chinese friends learn your Chinese name, do they call you by that name or do they use use your Western name?
  • What about you – do you think my Chinese name is silly too? :) – you can be honest!

Do let me know please – share your thoughts with me. :)