In China, Cantonese protests underscore a rift over dialects


By Lily Kuo, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2010 -

Reporting from Beijing
— In Guangzhou, the city formerly known as Canton, Chinese government banners hang in primary schools with instructions to use the country’s official language, Mandarin, also known as Putonghua:

“Speak Putonghua, write standard Chinese, use civilized language, be a civilized person.”

But residents of the city, the capital of one of China’s proudest Cantonese-speaking regions, recently marched by the hundreds to protest a new government proposal to switch television broadcasts from the local dialect to Mandarin ahead of the multi-sport Asian Games scheduled for November in Guangzhou.

“Protect our mother tongue!” some Guangzhou residents shouted. “Get lost, Mandarin!”

On the same day, about 200 people marched in Hong Kong, where Cantonese is the official Chinese tongue, converging on government headquarters. A week earlier, nearly 1,000 people in Guangzhou had blocked a subway station to show their opposition to the proposed change in television broadcasts.

For years Cantonese speakers in southern China have complained that local culture is being eroded under orders from Beijing, where Mandarin dominates. The recent protests highlight a traditional rivalry between north and south as well as the government’s efforts to bring the country under one language, local residents and experts say.

Cantonese — as the second most spoken dialect in China and until recently the language most common among Chinese living abroad — has long been a key part of Chinese culture.

Generations of Cantonese-speaking immigrants built America’s first Chinatowns and introduced dim sum, chop suey and Bruce Lee (the martial artist and film star was born in San Francisco but mostly grew up in China).

As more Mandarin-speaking migrants from other parts of China move into Guangzhou and other Chinese communities across the world, Cantonese is becoming less prominent, analysts and experts say. And the government is speeding up the process, they say……. Continue reading

Uyghur language school Shuts Down in Pakistan under pressure from Chinese Embassy


Radio Free Asia, May 20, 2010 -

HONG KONG— A Uyghur language school in northern Pakistan has been shuttered following orders from authorities acting on pressure from Beijing, according to school officials.

The Omer Uyghur Language School in Rawalpindi, in the Majha region of Punjab province, closed its doors in April after Chinese Embassy officials spoke with the Pakistani government and the school’s landlord, accusing school officials of maintaining ties with a Uyghur independence group.

The school had also faced fierce competition from a new institute established by the Chinese Embassy called the Big Montessori School—built directly in front of the Omer Uyghur Language School and opened for classes on April 7, 2010, Omer school officials said.

Omer Khan, 35, who co-founded the Omer Uyghur Language School with his brother Akbar in March 2009, said he is trying to convince the Pakistani government to allow him to reopen.

His brother, Akbar, said the Uyghur community “simply wants a place to learn the Uyghur language and has no political motivations.”

The Big Montessori School has yet to conduct classes in the Uyghur language, despite a pledge from Chinese officials that it would do so, in addition to providing all fees for attendance and school materials.

Classes are currently conducted in Urdu and English, according to local members of the Uyghur community.

Unlikely leader

A former employee of the Omer Uyghur Language School, who asked not to be named, said the Chinese Embassy had also distributed 5 million Pakistan rupees (U.S. $60,000) to the Pakistan Chinese Uyghur community in Rawalpindi, which it said was to be used for the new school it had established.

“The Chinese government spending money on a new school is only going to create problems for the Uyghur community here. They just want to start trouble by saying there are links between our school and the World Uyghur Congress,” the employee said, referring to the Munich-based independence group.

“The new school is not teaching Uyghur. I’m very disappointed because the Omer School has been shut down and the new school was built directly in front of the former school,” he said.

Raza Han, president of the Big Montessori School, has served as a liaison between the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan and the Pakistan Chinese Uyghur community in Rawalpindi, of which he also serves as president.

When contacted by telephone in Uyghur for comment, Raza Han seemed unable to communicate clearly.

“I am not a Uyghur,” Raza Han stuttered, before refusing to answer further questions.

The former employee at the Omer School said he could not understand why Raza Han had been put in charge of the Uyghur community, or of the school that was meant to provide the community with language and cultural classes.

“How can Raza Han claim to be the head of the Chinese Uyghur community in Rawalpindi if he is not even a Uyghur?” he asked……. (more details from Radio Free Asia)

Chinese Still See Themselves As “slaves”


By Richard Spencer, Telegraph, UK, 21/08/2007-

Beijing- China’s national anthem promises its people “will no longer be slaves”.

But a list of new slang expressions compiled by its Ministry of Education suggests the country’s economic reforms have simply multiplied the ways its people can fall into serfdom.

Among the most popular phrases used by the country’s growing middle class are an expanding variety of equivalents to the English “wage slave”.

The most common is “house slave”, meaning someone who struggles to pay off the mortgage. But there are also “car slaves” who, unlike lucky government cadres, have to pay all their own petrol, servicing, and road toll fees.

More specialised versions are “grave slaves” who have bought expensive funeral plots in advance, and “feast slaves” whose jobs mean their lives are an endless round of banquets, weddings, funerals, and other social events requiring the cash gifts, or “red envelopes” expected on such occasions.

Chinese is especially suited to slang and abbreviations, partly to make up for the impossibility of acronyms in a character-based language.

Its favourite clichés all take the form of four characters in a row, while talk is often littered with apparently meaningless phrases. Beijing University, or Beijing Daxue in Mandarin, is known to all simply as Bei Da, or North Big.

The ministry list, which also includes popular new names such as character versions of “Lucy” and “Jenny”, dwells on the influence of English, and points out the contrast to the days of the Cultural Revolution when patriotic names such as “Lianjun”, or Unite the Army, “Wei Dong”, Protect Mao Zedong, and “Aiguo”, Love the Country, were all the rage.

One popular new Chinglish phrase is “ding chong jia ting”, meaning double income couples with a pet instead of children.

Ding is used simply because it sounds like the western acronym Dink – double income no kids.

Judging by what the ministry took to be popular slang, however, the country has not moved on entirely from traditional political correctness.

It said Olympic slogans had already passed into common usage, as had “ba rong ba chi”, or eight honours, eight disgraces.

This list of virtues and vices, such as “Honour the Motherland, Do not Dishonour the Motherland”, was published to great fanfare by President Hu Jintao last year.

But some would say that the latter is now mostly used ironically, as in “What became of the ba rong ba chi?”, when some new scandal involving Communist Party officials is revealed.

Particularly curious is the ministry’s claim that youngsters refer to homosexuals as “duan bei”, or Brokebacks, after the Oscar-winning film Brokeback Mountain.

Maybe it is just being optimistic. The Chinese government has always been reluctant to discuss the most common slang term for gay men, a usage which has dramatically altered the way party officials talk about each other.

That term is “tongzhi”, which used to be translated as “comrade”.

- Original report from Telegraph: Chinese still see themselves as slaves

Top Chinese – English Hybrid Words of 2006


Global Language Monitor , November 22, 2006 -

( San Diego, Calif.) – ‘No Noising’ and ‘Airline Pulp’ have been named the Top Chinglish Words of 2006 in The Global Language Monitor’s annual survey of the Chinese-English hybrid words known more commonly as Chinglish. Though often viewed with amusement by the rest of the English-speaking world, The Chinglish phenomenon is one of the prime drivers of Globalization of the English Language.

“The importance of Chinglish is the fact that some 250,000,000 Chinese are now studying, or have studied, English and their impact (and imprint) upon the language cannot be denied,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and The WordMan of the Global Language Monitor.

“Since each Chinese ideogram can have many meanings and interpretations, translating ideas into English is, indeed, difficult. Nevertheless, the abundance of new words and phrases, unlikely as this may seem, can and will impact Global English as it evolves through the twenty-first century”.

With the English Language marching steadily toward the 1,000,000 word mark, there are now some 1.3 billion speakers with English as their native, second, business or technical tongue. In 1960, the number of English Speakers hovered around 250,000,000 mainly located in the UK and its Commonwealth of former colonies, and the US.

Some scholars maintain that you cannot actually count the number of words in the language because it is impossible to say exactly what a word is, talking rather of memes and other linguistic constructs, are afraid that Global English is just another form of cultural Imperialism. GLM take the classic view of the language as understood in Elisabethan England, where a word was ‘a thing spoken’ or an ‘idea spoken’.

Others say that English is undergoing a rebirth unlike any seen since the time of Shakespeare, when English was emerging as the modern tongue known to us today. (Shakespeare, himself, added about 1700 words to the Codex.) English has emerged as the lingua franca of the planet, the primary communications vehicle of the Internet, high technology, international commerce, entertainment, and the like.

Chinglish is just one of a number of the -Lishes, such as Hinglish (Hindu-English hybrid) and Singlish, that found in Singapore. A language can best be view as a living entity, where it grows just like any other living thing and is shaped by the environment in which it lives.

With the continuing emergence of China on the world stage — and with the Olympics coming to Beijing in 2008, the state is now attempting to stamp-out some of the more egregious examples of Chinglish. In its annual survey the Global Language Monitor has selected from hundreds of nominees, the top Chinglish words and Phrases of 2006.

The Top Chinglish Words and Phrases of 2006 follow:

1. “No Noising”. Translated as “quiet please!”

2. “Airline pulp.” Food served aboard an airliner.

3. “Jumping umbrella”. A hang-glider.

4. “Question Authority”. Information Booth.

5. “Burnt meat biscuit.” No it’s not something to enjoy from the North of England but what is claimed to be bread dipped in a savory meat sauce.

Bonus: GLM’s all-time favorite from previous surveys: “The Slippery are very crafty”. Translation: Slippery when wet!

- from Global Language Monitor