Our community blogs
Point out the errors in the translation.
Mark: AWESOME night. Dry spell = broken.
Karen likes this.
Mark: MOM WTF
Karen: Oops. How do I unclick?
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Beijing is the very big red and white banners which appear to have propaganda/slogans on them.
I can translate them literally, but I wonder if there's a proper way of expressing them in English which has the right tone and vocabulary to make them sound like the voice of the Party?
This was copied from the conclusion of a research paper I wrote. I'm not super confident on the quality of the paper so I'm not putting it here. A lot of this should be "no shit" to many of you. Some of it might be surprising.
A teacher’s ability to naturally gravitate toward good pedagogy depends on target language proficiency, linguistic expertise, and familiarity with current research and technology. Based on the studies referenced in this paper and the discussion in the previous section,
- Reading complements writing and writing complements reading. They should be developed together, with reading prioritized.
- Students should not be expected to write whatever they can say or read, but should be expected to write something in order to develop sensitivity to orthographic features of Chinese.
- Students should be shown and be allowed to use the best learning tools available on their various devices.
- Allowing novice students to produce written Chinese using phonetic input methods is not a handicap, but a scaffolding tool providing reinforcement of the connection between phonetic notation, meaning, and written representation of words.
- Learners who are freed from having to handwrite everything in their oral vocabulary should learn handwriting at a more deliberate pace, where more attention is paid to form.
- In particular, the modular structure of Chinese characters should be taught explicitly.
- Although unfashionable, rote repetition is still useful in developing motor memory, which automatizes encoding, allowing a focus on meaning.
- The same stroke order should be followed each time a character is written.
北京人大常委会建言：对流动人口采取新户籍模式 － 2010年07月30日07:17 － 来源：新华网
市人大常委会建议，要充分发挥农民在农村城镇化中的主体作用，切实保护农民的合法权益，努力实现农村城镇化进程中“一变四有三进”，即：随着农民集体土地性质功能的变化，使农民有住房、有新型产业、有稳定就业、有新型经济组织的股权，进入与城市衔接的社会保障体系、进入均等化的基本公共服务覆盖范围、进入股份合作制的新型经济组织。记者 王皓 实习生 王颜欣 (来源：北京日报)
This word means intuitive, audio-visual, visual, i.e. something that is directly perceived through the senses.
aids to object teaching; audio-visual aids
On the upside, I found working with the Facelets API to be very natural and intuitive.
The touch-key designed accords with the trend of the products, and operate the products more easily.
For an interesting take on intuitive English vocabulary learning, check out: http://pic.daqi.com/slide/2934663.html
What do you think?
- Read more...
- 0 comments
No blog entries yet
It's way too early to tell what if any impact the change in software will have on site usage. But lets look at some numbers anyway.
First off, early indications are that everyone has figured out how to post - new posts figures for the last couple of days are broadly in line with the same days last week. Subtract all the posts made in the topic about the move (which don't really count as normal posting) and you've got figures down a bit, but not to a worrying extent.
There are page redirects in place to bring anyone attempting to visit old forum content pages to the right place on the new system, so search engine traffic is still finding us. It has dropped by about 10% on the same day last week, presumably as Google and the rest update the index with the new urls. That kind of drop is well within the realms of random Internet fluctuations anyway.
And it's maybe a bit early, but it looks like Googlebot is finding the new pages easier to eat - this shows how long on average it takes to download a page. There's not a lot of value in that information, but it indicates that the new scripts are at least not running any slower than the old ones.
And if anyone wants to do their bit to boost the stats - get posting. Posts generate more posts, and more visitors.
I take the Shanghai metro a lot. While on the subway they have different TV programs, at the moment usually just the recap of the Shanghai expo of the previous day. On the weekend though I have found they have a program I like to call "Shanghai's most devious Criminals"
The show features a police man and actual CCTV footage of criminals stealing or doing some sort of con. The con in the picture is an old man crossing the street and making an expensive car slowly bump into his partner in crime a bicycle that just happens to be riding next to the car in the blind spot when the old guy walks towards the car. The bicyclist falls down and asks for compensation. The policeman is eventually called and after reviewing the tapes and seeing how these two scam artists worked arrested them for the scam. There was another one 2 weeks ago which had the cop chasing the criminal who ran across a wide 3 lane road and climbed over the median. He was about to get away when a pedestrian saw the cop chasing him, ran after the criminal and tackled him to the crowd, putting the criminal in a headlock until the police could catch up and put the cuffs on him. For a public documentary show it had a bunch of action and a little uneditted violence.
Anyway this use of the Metro TV is quite interesting I thought, it was half instructional on how to spot scams and half (look how we're catching criminals, don't think about trying anything as we have cameras everywhere.)
Much better than the red light -green light of how to get on the subway movies and how not to go after your cell phone after you drop it on the tracks.
Recent EntriesLatest Entry:
I pity the fool who can't shake the evil bean. (Not really, I just wanted to use Mr. T's famous "I pity the fool" line.)
Living on the Big Island of Hawaii for 7 years turned me into a coffee snob. I grew to like the strong, bitter taste of Kona coffee and the coffee my friend grew on the Hamakua coast. During my 3 years in Japan I frequented two small cafes in Gifu City that served strong coffee and sweet cake, and played good, old-school jazz. I never got hooked on Japanese green or barley tea. Japanese green tea is good, but I prefer green tea ice cream and green tea chocolate to drinking it.
So when I moved to China last year I was hoping to maintain the coffee buzz. Not sure what happened. A few lukewarm cans of Nescafe and a few mediocre mocha's at some cafes and I just wasn't feeling the buzz anymore. So I gradually switched over to tea.
Flashback: The best cup of tea I've ever had in China (or anywhere else for that matter) was in a small town called Xiahe(夏河) in Gansu province. It was in a small ramen shop. The young waiter reached into a bag, pulled out a handful of tea leaves that were so dark green they almost looked black, threw them into a drinking glass (not a tea mug) and then poured hot water over them. The tea had a strong, smoky taste but it was also very smooth. I've been trying to "find" that taste ever since (about two years ago). I got a hint of it in a small ramen shop in Miyun (密云) two months ago. It wasn't as strong, but a hint of the smoky taste was definitely there. I asked the waiter what kind of tea it was and he said it was Oolong. A few weeks later I went to a couple of tea shops and tried to explain the flavor of tea I was looking for, but I still haven't found it. Maybe a trip back to 夏河 is in order. Next time I'm going to take some of the tea leaves with me.
So I bought a tea set the other day. And so far, my male ego is taking it in strides. I'm thinking I need some dolls and stuffed animals for a tea party. While she said it looks nice, my wife doesn't share my enthusiasm for tea. She likes fruit juice and milk. I'd like to bring this point up the next time a language teacher throws me a "Chinese people like tea, Americans like coffee" generalization.
I'd like to study the art of making tea. For me, it's about more than just drinking a beverage. It's like a mini ritual. It's about taking time out, sitting quietly, drinking something that tastes good and relaxes me.
I'm digging Jasmine tea. I'm hoping to switch to some green tea as the Summer heats up.
What kind of tea do you like?
I've been here in Beijing at Beihang University for a week now. The lectures starts on tuesday so I have had some time to explore the surrounding area and check out some markets. So far it has been a great experience and from a swedes point of view the chinese are very friendly and open for contact. I wish I had some language skills to be able to chat with people but that will change (hopefully!).
It has been a while since I last updated my blog. There were a couple of reasons for this - My eyes
My vision was deteriorating quite a lot and last November the decision was taken to under go cataract surgery. As this was in the UK and on the NHS the wheels grind (no complaints it just the way it is) and eventually I now have 2 new lenses and can see better than I have been able to for many years. I found it was becoming increasingly frustrating trying to read characters with bad eyes and magnifying glasses are a pain, hard to scan pages with one.
I am still in recovery, it is only the third day after my second eye so slowly slowly does it.
My intention is to return and update my blog with my new learning schedule and updates as to my successes and failures and hopefully help myself and others to progress with learning Chinese.
Just wanted to update anyone who was interested that my hiatus from learning is now turning slowly into a return to learning.
I have had trouble with the trio of traditional characters which simplify to 干. It turns out (as usual) that all three have curious and twisted etymologies. Here are some mnemonics for keeping the traditional characters 幹干and 乾 straight in your head:
This is the most straight-forward of the trio.
It means "dry":
In its qian2 pronunciation, it is also one of the Eight Trigrams, and a surname, but those are much lower frequency uses.
Mnemonic: When there is a drought you beg for even a little mist.
Wieger clarifies that "dry" was originally written using 旱 on the left (with 十 above it?). The character 乾 originally was read qian2 and represented the sun shining into the jungle, dislodging vapors which then rise up into the sky.
This character can mean "to do" or "tree trunk".
It can be used alone:
You have committed ("done") a folly.
Or in the common idiom gan4ma5:
What are you doing?
A canonical example of the "tree trunk" meaning is:
A tree (which originally was made of wood but is now a post-modern clothes hanger pole) is topped with an umbrella of leaves. But, through the mist, you can only see the trunk.
Wieger says the 干 component in 幹 is supposed to be 木, the former being an "absurd phonetic redundancy" This would make more sense.
This is the odd-ball in the group. It has several meanings. Its most prolific meaning is "to offend":
to offend or to violate
But this gan can also mean "stem" in:
the Ten Heavenly Stems
An archaic meaning is "shield":
weapons of war, literally "shield and spear"
In Toronto, up until a couple of years ago, it was illegal to hang clothes outside, i.e. one of the biggest offenses and ways to offend the sensibilities of people was to hang your clothes outdoors. Silly, but unfortunately true. (credit: koohii user vorpal)
Wieger tells us that 干 represents a pestle. By extension it means to grind or destroy. Destruction in the moral sense gives offense. Destruction in the martial sense gives the warlike association in 干戈.
Recent EntriesLatest Entry:
Have almost finished translating the song 纯真年代 so will post that up when done, but to take a break and try translating some smaller passages I'm going to copy some sample sentences from NCIKU.com's dictionary. Here is the first one I tried with my translation underneath:
A: Remembering the rapidly growing revolutionary years, he is endlessly excited
B: The years are endless, world affairs are like white clouds and dark green dogs
"memories form and pass by".
I thought remembering or as he remembered would be an appropriate translation but I am unsure.
"That like fire like bitter herb revolution years".
This really confused me when I broke it down as I didn't know how to combine the 如火如荼 part. The dictionary said it was a saying meaning either "magnificent" or "originally used to describe a soldier's demeanor and discipline; developing quickly; growing rapidly;blazing", so I opted for rapidly growing as seems more appropriate to describe a revolution.
"He excited endlessly".
I thought this would sound better as "His excitement is endless" but that would need 的, and the translation that I have for 不已 is endlessly, which is an adverb. I would have used this first translation but when I saw that 漫长 translates as endless in the second phrase I compared the two.
I don't know what time frame the first line occurs in. Present tense? - As he remembers the revolutionary years he is endlessly excited, or past tense? - As he remembered the revolutionary years he was endlessly excited.
I'm not sure about the last line, Nciku.com says that it's a saying meaning "how things change in this world". My literal translation looks a bit silly but it's based on my current knowledge so I will leave it as it stands.
Well its been a while since I updated this blog and I have tons of excuses why and why I haven't studied for 6 weeks until last week. But that's what they are just excuses, and I should of never of stopped. So I am going to redo all the NPCR chapters I have already finished, redo most of the pimsluers I have completed and re listen to podcasts that I already know. I know this will take a few weeks but I will be back up to where I was and with accurate tones and words. Has this happened to anyone else? Seems like at times stepping back a few steps will help your get to your destintion.
Mid terms are all done. For the most part they went pretty well. Not really a huge amount to share at the moment, we're in a routine as far as classes go, learning lots across the board.
I've been trying to be a bit more active in increasing my input. I started reading the first Harry Potter, and I'm a few pages away from finishing. I marked characters I didn't know so that I could come back and learn the new words, and I've noticed that I've gone from multiple characters being marked in each paragraph near the start of the book, to sometimes 2/3 pages with nothing marked at all. I've also been really encouraged to see lots of the stuff coming up in class appearing in the book, thus further cementing both the term in question, and it's usefulness for me at this point in time. I'm not yet sure what I will read next.
I am doing a lot of running at the moment, which looks like 4/5 treadmill runs a week, for anything up to 3 hours per session right now, simply because it's too cold to run outside. The plus side of this is that the treadmills in my gym have TVs, so I have been watching various TV shows. As with my reading, I have again found that lots of the things I have been learning in class are coming up.
All in all I am feeling pretty encouraged right now! There is a very long way to go, but there is also noticeable improvement.
Use the translated English lyrics below to find the title and artist of the song. Bonus points for providing a video or audio link. A short audio clip is provided as an additional hint, should you need it.
The bird that flew from the desert, it told me
It's desolate there, all that's left is paleness
The bird that flew from my hometown, it told me
Mother's wrinkles are already old and gray-haired
On this kind of night, why do I always
I think of you again, the girl I abandoned
On this kind of night, why do I always
I think of you again, I think of you again
The bird that flew from the grasslands, it told me
It's grown wild there, all that's left is vastness
The bird that flew from the south, it told me
The beloved girl already has flowing long hair
On this kind of night, why do I always
I thought of you again, the girl I once loved
On this kind of night, why do I always
I think of you again, I think of you again
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Grief unable to fade away
Original by 邓丽君
Translated and performed by Enjune Zhang
Autumn moon and spring blossoms fade away
Gone are those splendid days
East wind breaks into my window
And awakes my aches
It's my country no more tonight
I look back and sigh in vain
Moonlight smooths the palace ornately engraved
It stays but owner of it got changed
How much more sorrow could I take
It grows deeper like the spring tide
East it flows away
Grief unable to fade away.m4a
- Read more...
- 0 comments
I'm a huge fan of 中国好歌曲, the music competition where artists sing their own songs, and now there is finally a spiritual successor in 这！就是原创. Two episodes in, here are some of my favorite performances:
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Two-unit characters are characters that can be divided into two units based on the shape of a character. This can be a division based on left-to-right, top-to-bottom, or outer-to-inner. If you are familiar with radicals then the concept is not so alien. For left-to-right often a spacing, or lack of connecting from the left side of the character to the right side of the character, is where the the character is divided up into two units. For top-to-bottom it can be more tricky, but again if you think back to character radicals it is not a leap. For outer to inner, there is an outer shell unit that encompasses the inner unit.
Once the character is divided up into two units, the following rules apply for determining the Cangjie input code:
1) The first unit may only have up to two Cangjie symbols input. If there are more than two symbols in the unit, then only the first and last Cangjie symbols are input on the keyboard.
2) The second unit may have up to three Cangjie symbols input. Again, if there are more than three, some skipping is involved. In this case, the first, second and last Cangjie symbols are input on the keyboard.
This may seem a bit abstruse, so let's look at some examples. Unfortunately I am on my android device right now and I don't yet have a very good Cangjie input method tool, so I'm still looking for a better way to bring up just the Cangjie symbol to show how things are built up. As such, to make sense of the following I suppose you need some familiarity with Cangjie symbols. I will try to update this post later if I can figure it out.
1) 風 / 风
A quick visual examination yields a clear outer-to-inner relationship in both the traditional form and simplified form of the character. The outer unit is 几, which can be made up using Cangjie codes that look like 厂乙 (note these are radicals on don't reflect the exact Cangjie symbols, but I wanted to provide something to help see how the unit is broken down to Cangejie symbols. To build the unit, the input code is HN for the outer unit. The inner unit looks like 虫 with a "hat" on top. This unit requires four symbols, so we have to skip the third, with the Cangjie code being HLI. The resulting Cangjie code for the entire character is HNHLI.
For the simplified character it is similar. The first unit is HN still, but the innter unit is simplified. It turns out that this unit actually represents a Cangjie symbol, so the Cangjie code for this unit is just K. Putting it all together, the resulting code for the entire character is HNK.
2) 鍾 / 锺
Upon visual inspect, this character is a left-to-right two-unit character. The first unit is 金 or钅, and the second unit is 重. Well, 金 is actually a Cangjie symbol, so for both the traditional and simplified forms, the input code for the first unit is C, and that completes the unit. The second unit, however, has four Cangjie symbols in it, so we have to skip the third since we are only allowed up to three symbols. The unit is made of a "hat" stroke on the top, 十 just below it, then skipping 田 because it is the third symbol, and finally 土. This turns out to HJG, and thus the entire code for this character is CHJG.
3) 規 / 规
Again, this is a left-to-right two-unit character. Based on the Cangjie symbols, the left side is built with the codes QO. For the right side, the code comes out to BUU for the tradtional. For the simplified, it is BHU. Again, I wish I could input just these Cangjie symbols for reference, but this one is proving challenging for my Android input method. The final code is QOBUU for the tradtional version,a nd QOBHU for the simplified version.
Well, that is it for today, looking back at this post I am not even sure if it is useful. But oh well, this is kind of my journal too. When I am back on a real computer I will see what I can do.
I am familiar with the 着 for a continuous state.
However, 着 in this line doesn't seem to indicate continuous state.
What is 着 doing in this line?
It does look like people say 找着了吗 based on the quick search online. LINK
Haven't really had a chance to update since the new term began, I had my thesis proposal in early September which felt like more of a defense than a proposal. Out of my panel only one of the professors could really ask me questions because the other two didn't have a background in cognitive linguistics and didn't really understand my topic. So I spent 20 minutes of defending my topic with this one professor (Actually my old Consecutive interpreting professor) who began with "honestly this just feels like an idea on paper" ... ummm.... yes.. thats what a proposal is lmfao. but I continued to humor her and stand by my topic. It was rough, actually the entire classroom went through this slurry of vicious attacks toward our topics that if you were unable to defend yourself you would just be stuck standing there listening to them shit on you for 20 minutes. The hardest part was that everyone had to stay in the room so it was roughly 4 hours of listening to each student present and defend themselves. But I survived and my proposal passed somehow even though one of the panel told me that she felt that my topic was really interesting but just not for me.
This term I only have 4 classes. Written translation on Mondays, And 2 simultaneous interpreting courses on Friday. Our Tuesday classes (4 hours) began sometime after the holidays and every week since then has been a mental torture. The original teacher for the class "cross-cultural communications" was supposed to be an interesting guy from Australia. Unfortunately this guy is under Confucius scholarship studying his Phd and cant continue his teaching so we got stuck with the same guy who taught us last semester in 4 hour brackets.
Yes... that professor. I don't like to judge but this class should just be renamed "My musings" because every class has just been about him rambling off things from his mind for four hours. Nothing he says has anything to do with the class or to anything even remotely useful. It actually feels like he's just trolling the class, because I don't understand how someone can talk about an ant and tiger analogy for four hours straight. I think the worst part of this class is that his musings always lead to something totally inappropriate. So something extremely racist or sexist, or homophobic crosses his mind and he just goes on and on and it really hurts me to hear that so many of my classmates find this "PHD" so interesting, when he would literally be crucified in my country for the things hes said. I don't know how someone like him has studied in America. I've been bringing my study materials and books to read in class so that I don't have to listen to that garbage that he says, but you know its really hard to block out something so completely inappropriate.
But other than his inappropriateness his classes are just a waste of time. I'm not even kidding when I say that I had to listen to him talk about colors yesterday. He started from Red and ended on Gray and then looked at the time and we had about 20 minutes left of class and he mused "what other colors have i missed? Oh yeah Brown!".
The Monday translation professor is a close second to a professor I have no respect for this term. This lady prepares nothing for class. Her classes are prepared by a different classmate each week. And I'm not talking about just a short presentation. No. I'm talking about a full class, including creating group work exercises etc. She does nothing. What she does is sit there and when shes given the remainder of the class to add anything (roughly 20 minutes) her response is "well what am I supposed to do?" ...... um. Teach. That's what you get paid for . That's your job. In the very beginning of the term the professor wasn't clear she wanted us to basically teach the class every week so in week 2 when we came to class this lady had some nerve to criticize us all for being irresponsible and unprepared for class. She does this from time to time when people are late. I'm legit rolling my eyes in that class every week.
The only class worth mentioning is our simultaneous interpreting classes held on Fridays. The classes have been really difficult but really good for exercise. The only qualm I have is that I have my recordings played every class for both sections, so every week I have to hear my lousy interpretations twice in the same day (from E-C and C-E) its rough but I've gotten so used to it that Its kind of like meh whatever to me. Though its kind of irritating that its always the same people played every week. I haven't heard half of my classmates in that class even once.
So other than classes what have I been up to? Its a semester that leaves a lot open. I've been trying to work on honing my interpreting skills, especially in simultaneous interpreting which I find to be quite challenging. My professor suggested shadowing for about 10-15 minutes a day to get used to keeping up with the pace. A problem that many of us have with simultaneous is waiting too long to begin, and only speaking in 3 word clusters instead of having a fluid sentence. I've been shadowing with this program 《绝密档案》 from the app 蜻蜓。 The app itself has a lot of different podcasts to choose from to listen. I just find this program particularly interesting so after 15 mins of shadowing I just continue listening to the rest of the story. I've also made use of going over some of my old resources that we had from past classes so Ive been going over speeches that have Chinese and English to work on a more formal register and also to get a feel for collocations.
I wanted to work this semester but I think that with the thesis and everything I'd rather just focus on my studies this term. Its sad to be without the extra cash but I have my whole life to make money but just this year to really work on my studies. I've still been keeping my eyes on jobs because I'd like to find a job after my studies and stay here for another year. As much as China kills me at times, I'm not ready to leave.
That's it. Our first draft of our thesis is expected to be ready by December for our pre-defense. The date hasn't been confirmed yet but we've been told already we should have a minimum of 19,000 written. I still need to set my study up and get a move on it. I'll try and keep this blog up to date!
A few days ago, I finished reading the short story collection 《樱海集》 by 老舍. This brought my reading total above one million characters, completing my goal for the year.
《樱海集》 was first published in 1935. The collection contains a funny and self-effacing preface plus ten short stories of varying lengths (from six to forty-two pages). The stories deal with classical human failings—hypocrisy, pride, envy, bitterness, cowardice, lust, revenge, greed, anger—and the consequences that arise from such failings. Though the stories are thematically related, they differ considerably in their characters, plots, point of views, and settings.
Below is a brief synopsis of each story, along with some amplifying details and concluding thoughts.
The first story in the collection, 《上任》, is about a recently promoted government official named 尤老二 and the opium-smoking thugs he employs. Much of the story is concerned with 尤老二’s inability to pay for his thugs, who show up at odd times asking for money for travel and other expenses. This story was difficult for me to get into. I found the details of the plot hard to follow and the language more challenging than any other story in the collection.
《牺牲》 is a character sketch of 毛博士, a bizarre 崇洋媚外 teacher educated in the United States.
《柳屯的》 is about a small village, a powerful Christian family, and an unrestrained woman who tries to take over them both.
《末一块钱》 is about a young dissatisfied college student who yearns for the kind of life enjoyed by his more affluent classmates.
《老年的浪漫》 is about an old man who, cursed with greedy former colleagues and a foolish son, decides to settle old scores.
《毛毛虫》 is a very short story that asks the question: What does a community think about that unenviable husband and wife who live down the street, and that husband’s former wife, and their new children?
《善人》 is about a well-to-do woman who sees herself as generous but is oblivious to the suffering of those around her.
This story was my favorite story of the collection. 《邻居们》 is about the tensions that flare up between two neighboring families after one receives the other’s mail by mistake.
The 明 family and the 杨 family are neighbors. 明家 is selfish and uncivilized. 杨家 is altruistic and lettered. The husband and father in the 杨 family, 杨先生, is described as a “最新式的中国人.”
One day, 杨先生 receives a letter addressed to 明先生. 杨太太 attempts to deliver the letter, but 明太太 misunderstands her neighbor’s intentions and rebuffs her. 杨先生 then writes his own letter explaining the situation. 明太太 refuses this letter, too. Tensions between the two families escalate. 杨先生 believes that he and 明先生 can resolve their differences like rational gentlemen, and continues to write his neighbor letters. 明先生 sees 杨先生 as a weak man and despises him for his bookishness and inaction. Eventually…
the 明家 children go into the 杨家 garden and stomp their flowers to smithereens. When 杨先生 comes home from work and sees his ruined garden, he flies into a rage and smashes every window of the 明家 house. 明先生 is not mad at his neighbor, but impressed with him. It turns out that 杨先生 is a red-blooded man of passion, after all.
《月牙儿》 is a longer story about a girl and her hard life after her father dies and her mother is forced out of exigence into prostitution.
- 《阳光》 is about the life of a beautiful, proud, and dissolute woman from a rich family. Her eventual arranged marriage to a prominent morality-promoting Daoist is comfortable, but stifling.
《樱海集》 is the second work I’ve read by 老舍; the first was his delightful science fiction satire 《猫城记》. There is something irreverent about 老舍’s style in these two works. 老舍’s stories foreground the character defects of early 20th-century Chinese people, whatever their station in life. Opioid-addicted menial laborers, wives of rich businessmen, the orphaned, the educated, the religious and the ideologically possessed—none are spared.
By pointing out character defects in such a wide-ranging way, 老舍 advances a kind of criticism of the Chinese society of his day. But 《樱海集》 is not a “critical” work, at least not in the sense that modern people use the term. It isn’t a systematic, theory-driven critique of Chinese society; nor is it especially tragic or concerned with issues of justice. Rather, 《樱海集》 is a moral work. The stories in 《樱海集》 are cautionary tales filled with negative moral examples. They are the modern literary equivalents of fables.
The stories paint a pessimistic and probably unbalanced picture of Chinese life. Readers interested in positive moral examples—the righteous government official or revolutionary, the loving and longsuffering mother, the diligent young student who succeeds in life despite enormous opposition—will not find them here. Some of 老舍’s negative moral examples are also offensive to contemporary Western sensibilities. His portraits of women are pretty unflattering. 老舍’s women are ostentatious, stubborn, and quick to anger. (To be fair, the men don’t come off much better. Most of 老舍’s male protagonists are feckless hypocrites.) Others will find 老舍’s portrayal of poor people unsympathetic. The peasants in 《樱海集》 are lazy and spend what little money they find on drugs:Quote
It is interesting to consider 老舍’s portrayals of Chinese people in 《樱海集》 in light of then-upcoming theories about politics and art in China. In his lectures at Yan'an in 1942, Mao advocated a new pro-proletariat literature and denounced “petit bourgeois writers” that write “pessimistic literature” and “harm the people.” Were 老舍’s mid-1930’s stories compatible with the new Chinese literature Mao would soon advocate? Was 老舍’s literature “pessimistic”? [For the curious, I blogged about Mao’s Yan'an literature lectures in an earlier post on this blog.]
The Chinese language in 《樱海集》 is not especially difficult. The vocabulary is more challenging than contemporary Chinese fiction writers like 余华 and 韩寒, but far easier than writers like 张爱玲 and 莫言. 老舍’s word choices are frequently different from those found in contemporary fiction. This may confuse language learners unfamiliar with early 20th-century Chinese literature. For the uninitiated, try reading other authors from the same period. (I read short stories by 丁玲, 沈从文, and 施蛰存 before. That helped.)
My new year’s resolution was to read one million characters in books and articles in 2019. I have now reached that goal with a little over a month to spare. This year I read mostly fiction. I also read Mao’s literature lectures, an article by IBM, a undergraduate thesis on the music of American saxophonist Sonny Stitt, and a third of the Bible. It’s been a great and rewarding experience.
From time to time, people ask about the value of studying Chinese language given recent political and economic changes in China. It’s a fair question; there are many reasons to study Chinese and people differ in their motivations and goals. For me, the desire to engage in the cultural and literary traditions of a large and important foreign world was and is a main driver of my Chinese study. This desire was sustained and strengthened this year. I intend to keep reading in Chinese, both fiction and non-fiction. For literature, my near-term goals for the next couple years are to continue with works at or slightly above my current reading level; to move on to major works by 张爱玲, 莫言, and 阎连科; and to tackle tougher early 20th-century works by authors like 鲁迅. I’d like to wade into 文言 someday too, though that day is still a long way off.
I had a lot of fun writing these posts and interacting with all of you. In the future, I may continue writing posts here. For now, however, because of many pressing demands on my time, I will put this blog on hiatus and return to posting intermittently in the excellent and underutilized “What are you reading?” thread.
Thank you to everyone who read or commented on this blog this year.
Characters read this year: 1,000,931
Characters left to read this year: 0
Percent of goal completed: 100%
List of things read:
《三八节有感》by 丁玲 (2,370 characters)
《我在霞村的时候》by 丁玲 (10,754 characters)
《在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话》by 毛泽东 (18,276 characters)
《自杀日记》by 丁玲 (4,567 characters)
《我没有自己的名字》by 余华 (8,416 characters)
《手》by 萧红 (7,477 characters)
《牛》by 沈从文 (8,097 characters)
《彭德怀速写》by 丁玲 (693 characters)
《我怎样飞向了自由的天地》by 丁玲 (2,176 characters)
《IBM Cloud文档：Personality Insights》 by IBM (25,098 characters)
《夜》by 丁玲 (4,218 characters)
《虎雏》by 沈从文 (46,945 characters)
《在巴黎大戏院》 by 施蛰存 (6,181 characters)
《分析Sonny Stitt即兴与演奏特点——以专辑《Only the Blues》中曲目 《Blues for Bags》为例》 (5,483 characters)
《一个女剧院的生活》 by 沈从文 (61,154 characters)
《致银河》 by 王小波 (17,715 characters)
《在细雨中呼喊》 by 余华 (132,769 characters)
《熊猫》 by 棉棉 (53,129 characters)
《1988：我想和这个世界谈谈》 by 韩寒 (81,547 characters)
《偶然事件》 by 余华 (20,226 characters)
《第七天》 by 余华 (84,847 characters)
《圣经》 (新译本) (1,055,606 characters; 315,144 read in 2019)
《樱海集》 by 老舍 (83,649 characters)
- The first story in the collection, 《上任》, is about a recently promoted government official named 尤老二 and the opium-smoking thugs he employs. Much of the story is concerned with 尤老二’s inability to pay for his thugs, who show up at odd times asking for money for travel and other expenses. This story was difficult for me to get into. I found the details of the plot hard to follow and the language more challenging than any other story in the collection.
A little embarrassed to notice I haven't updated on my progress since the first post - perhaps should have been predictable given how far down my list of priorities it this blog sits, but all the same...
On the other hand, the challenge is still going strong - 74/112 days completed now, none missed so far! My method for keeping track of this, and motivating myself, is the old but classic crosses-on-a-calendar method. I've tried some phone-based "don't break the chain" apps in the past, but none of them have quite the same impact as keeping physical track of my progress. It's gotten to the point that, when planning excursions or family days, my first thought is often "how can I plan my hours around that to guarantee I don't miss a day?"
That's not to say it's become easy. I've almost never felt like the 2 hours were effortless. It's just without this motivation I'd probably do less and less every day until I stop altogether. Anyway, if you're struggling with motivation to keep a daily habit (as I often have), I can definitely recommend buying a cheap calendar and just marking it off every day. Super effective.
So what have I learned over the 46 hours of Chinese since I last updated this blog?
Firstly, just as intermediate learners often observe, the rate of progress feels slower every week. I'm still on the boundary between intermediate/upper intermediate on ChinesePod, and when I listen to hard dialogues I downloaded three weeks ago, I don't feel like they've become any easier to decipher in the intervening time. New stories and dialogues introduce just as many new words now as they did two months ago, and I'm getting a visceral sense of just how vast a task learning a language is. The number of near homonyms makes this no easier, and I'm constantly confusing the meanings of words that to a Chinese speaker sound nothing alike.
On that topic, tones in particular continue to frustrate me. I'm not exactly tone-deaf - a few weeks ago I tried Olle Linge's tone training - 100% on the initial level placement - and John Pasden's tone pair drills - no problem there either. But I still often make comprehension mistakes in full sentences due to tones, and still can't reliably predict the tones of an unfamiliar word when spoken as part of a larger utterance. Even when hearing a tone isn't necessary to understand a sentence (at my level context is still mostly enough) it feels like full comprehension is slower than it should be, I'm using grammar/context as a crutch, and the other shoe is going to drop when I try to advance to native materials. It seems like there's a big gap in the market for intermediate tone training - forcing students to listen for tones until this habit is fully internalised. Does such a product already exist? I'm also quite curious what others think about this problem, and whether it's really an issue - particularly from those who have learned Chinese to a very high level of proficiency.
On the other hand, I do feel like I'm currently developing in three related areas.
- "Chinese subconscious" - occasionally in the past two weeks I have found myself following some non-trivial material without actively concentrating on the language at all, just thinking about the subject material. This is one of the things I had been hoping to achieve through mass listening, and it's good to feel it might eventually pan out. I have very limited stamina to fully concentrate on spoken language (I can't maintain 100% concentration for more than a few minutes!) so this is very necessary in the long run. This point might seem trivial to many here, but it's a big breakthrough for me!
- Speed of listening. The 4th level of the Chinese Breeze books has helped with this, as the narrators have stepped up the speed a bit for this level, forcing me to internalise more of the very high frequency words and grammatical structures. (I'll give a more complete review of the Chinese Breeze books later if I can find the time)
- Ability to learn. The more words I learn, the easier it seems to be to remember new words, and the better I can distinguish between similar words. And because I can listen faster, I can hear more words and grammar structures in 2 hours. It feels like entering a virtuous cycle. Of course because I've properly hit intermediate level now, it still feels like my rate of progress has slowed in spite of all of this.
Finally, I've entirely dropped SRSing of new words in isolation. I've just found it a drain on my mental energy with seemingly little-to-no gain. The SpoonFed Chinese Anki deck is doing a great job of introducing me to new words in context, and providing regular reminders. I re-listen to ChinesePod episodes at regular intervals when they have lots of new vocabulary (is there SRS software that can schedule this for me more conveniently than Anki?) The graded readers use the same words so often that there's no need to SRS them. And best of all, all of these activities are simply more fun than grinding Anki decks of words (well SpoonFed isn't much fun, but is definitely more effective). The only thing I'm losing here is the ability to recognise characters of words I'm learning, but given that all of my learning material currently comes with pinyin, this is something I can tolerate (and will probably fix through extensive reading after the challenge is over)