Monday, August 31, 2009

What is Chinglish?

Every tourist visiting an Asian country (generally Japan or China) feels compelled to take pictures of the mangled English that appears on street signs, restaurant menus, clothing and pretty much everywhere.

I'm no exception to this rule, but I think its worth determining just what is occurring in these anglophone atrocities. In China, the errors can be divided into three main categories:

Chinglish Grammar Errors
Technical manuals and signs at government buildings are often victims of direct translation errors. Phrasings are translated directly and, as a result, the English is often confusing. Occasionally these are funny, but usually a non-jackass can easily determine the intention of what is being said and life goes on. Graphic example to follow.

Chinglish Spacing Errors
This may come as a surprise, but traditional Chinese poetry and calligraphy uses no punctuation or spacing. In fact, punctuation beyond the full stop and the comma are relatively recent additions to written Chinese. Wikipedia tells me that full stops and comma's were used in scholarly annotation, but were often omitted.

This means that spacing and punctuation are NOT first nature to Chinese language speakers. This leads to a fun type of Chinglish error, "thenospace or awkwa rdspac ingerr or". These errors really look like someone took an entire English sentence, removed the spaces and then randomly reinserted them.

This is becoming less and less common as punctuation (and to a much lesser extent spacing) are becoming more commonly used and English is becoming more wide-spread.

I'll keep an eye out for a good one of these and edit this post.

EDIT: Looking through some old pictures, I realized I had a combo error. This definitely includes spacing issues, and probably some character transposition errors as well.

The characters read 省心楼, which could translate to "no worries tower". It appears someone took liberties and called it The Retrospection Tower, only to have their words mis-spaced and improperly transcribed into "THERETRDSPECTIENTOWER".

Character Transposition Errors
Unfortunately this is, by far, the most common type of error I encounter. Luckily its the funniest. This occurs when a typesetter, signmaker or textile manufacturer manages to incorrectly copy one or more of the English letters from a piece of paper onto the magazine, sign or garment. Some may be semi-intentional, like the multitudes of fake Calvin Klein floating around the streets with horrible names like Galvin Kloin Galvln KIein. I've also seen some Ralph Lauren called : Pclo Olub - Palo Team.

Other times, people are not trying to avoid copyright infringement and are just horribly transposing letters. I snapped this picture of a haute couture dress
If you can't read it, it says SEK BOHBS NOT WABS.

I find it FASCINATING, that someone able to memorize over 10,000 unique characters manages to mis-transpose one of the 26 characters in the English alphabet. I think my hit-miss ratio of transposing Chinese characters I don't know is MUCH higher than that.

Score one for Marc.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Beijing Ultimate Frisbee Champions

Attentive readers will note that this is the first post I'm making in August. Many of you know the reason for this: Veronica and I were back in the states for a little over 10 days. Those ten days were the busiest, most fun and friendfilled and generally fulfilling vacation days I can remember. Shout outs to the people that we say and BIG SORRIES to the people we weren't able to get in touch with. That said, our open offer still stands: Get yourself to Beijing, and you have a place to stay and some slightly above-average laowei tour guides.

Since this blog is about living in Beijing, posting about our trip back to the states would be rather pointless. And so, the blog picks back up, as we pick back up our lives in Beijing. . .

And where a better place to start than on the Frisbee fields. Beijing (and China in general) has a small but growing Ultimate Community. Right now, Beijing is home to at least four ongoing teams, comprised of locals and expats alike. There are a growing number of native Chinese being turned on to the sport, due, in no small part, to the tireless efforts of Five Ultimate to open up new markets.

During the springtime, we occasionally made it out to pickup games, but our travel, class and work schedules made it difficult to commit to Beijing's inaugural spring league. Luckily, we were able to join up in time for the 4th annual summer league. The league is small (compared to large Ultimate cities back in the states) with only four teams that play a total of eight games plus finals. What the league lacks in size it more than makes up in spirit.

Beijing Ultimate is lucky to have a committed group of expats that love the sport and love the city. The seed of their enthusiasm has sprouted into a lot of locals joining up and bringing their new take (and often incredible speed) to the game. Most of the people we've met so far are quintessential ultimate folk that, having played in or after college back in the states or Canada, couldn't go without it in China. They travel to tournaments throughout the continent and do the same rawkus things we do in America.

Beijing Ultimate Frisbee Summer League
We ended up on a great team, that managed to lose all but one game going into Final's weekend. We entered the playoffs as the #3 seed and won both of our games as the underdog to take the BUSL championships. I'm not going to bore anyone with a recap, but if you want the gory details and videos, check them out at Anthony Tao's blog.