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Thread: Learning Mandarin

  1. #106
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.


    Dirt-poor and ugly — the proud new mantra of those left behind in the new China
    DEC 26, 2018 | 3:00 AM

    Chinese netizens created a composite character from the characters for "poor," "ugly," and "dirt" that went viral on the social media platform Weibo. The first image shows the composite character. The second image shows three definitions for it. (Weibo)

    The latest craze in Chinese slang is a combination of 穷 and 丑 with 土 tucked neatly inside.

    Pronounced “qiou,” the new character can’t be produced on a keyboard. But its image, which appeared early this month on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, has been viewed tens of millions of times.

    Its popularity has nothing to do with China’s reputation for ambition and optimism or the Communist Party’s attempts to project an image of strength and power. Quite the opposite.

    The three components mean poor, ugly and dirt, though the dirt character is also used colloquially as outdated, unfashionable or tacky.

    Put them together and — according to one highly shared post — you get an adjective with three possible definitions: 1. so poor you’re eating dirt ; 2. not only ugly, but also so poor you eat dirt; 3. poor, ugly and dirt-tacky.

    Young netizens who feel left behind in China’s new economy have claimed the character as an ironically proud expression of loser-hood.

    Many Weibo users spread the same joke about qiou: It should be a synonym for wo — or “me.”

    Fans of the new character aren’t in dire poverty. After all, they have access to the internet and time to play on social media. But they live on the wrong side of China’s widening income gap, a place where finding a job, buying a house and getting married can feel impossible.

    Like frustrated millennials the world over, they find solace in laughing at themselves on the internet.

    “My life was qiou to the point of no return,” a computer programmer recently posted in an online forum, describing a series of calamities that included an acne outbreak that turned him into a “pox-faced Buddha,” losing part of a tooth in a fall down the stairs and shivering in the streets of Beijing because he had to use his jacket to cover a fresh tear in his pants.

    The forum posed the question: “What moment truly made you feel qiou in 2018?”

    Another respondent, Wang Yaling, described leaving his hometown in search of a better job, surviving on plain buns and water in order to pay his rent, then stuffing himself when his new boss took some employees out to eat.

    “I thought, I’m a human being, why don’t I live like one? I thought of my family. I thought of my future. My heart ached… and then I fell asleep,” he wrote. “The next morning I woke up and started working like crazy to get promoted and make more money — and now I’m still just a low-level employee.”

    Janice Chong, who works in finance in the city of Shenzhen, wrote that her qiou moment was investing in several financial technology companies only to see them crash.

    “I lost my investments and I’m sinking into a fog of self-doubt,” she said.

    For some, even the new character falls short in describing the sense of being excluded from China’s economic boom. One Weibo user, whose profile said she is 25 and from the city of Xian, wrote: “Feels like I can’t even afford to eat dirt — I’m living off air pollution.”

    It’s a side of China that doesn’t get much press.

    The country’s ascent to economic superpower has been accompanied by income inequality that the International Monetary Fund says is more extreme and growing far more rapidly than that in the United States. The top 1% of Chinese households own more than a third of the country’s wealth, while the bottom quarter has less than 2%, according to a report from Peking University.

    Inequality is exacerbated by China’s household registration system, in which citizens have access to schools and other public services only in the places they were born.

    Hundreds of millions of people have migrated from the countryside to major cities, but they don’t get equal access to schools, home loans or jobs.

    With more than 8 million people graduating from universities each year, and hundreds of thousands more returning to China with foreign degrees, competition for jobs is cutthroat.

    All this means a growing divide between the urban elite and the rural poor. The haves and the have-nots. The fantastically rich and the qiou.

    "Feels like I can't even afford to eat dirt — I'm living off air pollution," a user posted on Weibo. (Weibo, Dec. 4, 2018)

    In a language with about 50,000 characters — each with its own meaning and the power to join with other characters to create words and phrases — the creation of new characters is rare.

    No one has stepped forth as the inventor of qiou, and the speed of Chinese social media — things get copied and pasted by millions, then disappear overnight — makes it hard to identify who posted it first.

    But it wouldn’t be the first time that self-deprecating slang has gone viral in China.

    One of the most popular terms on Chinese social media is diaosi, which literally means ***** hair but has become shorthand for anybody who feels they’ve failed at work, romance or life in general.

    In 2014, Peking University surveyed 213,795 people aged 21 to 30 across 50 cities and found that 62% of them considered themselves diaosi.

    The term’s popularity even inspired an academic paper, published in 2016 with the title: “Why Do Chinese Young People Call Themselves ‘Losers’?”

    The author, Xinyu Huang, a graduate student in the department of communication, culture and technology at Georgetown University, concluded that being diaosi is part of a “counter-hegemony identity” born out of resentment against the elite as the wealth divide expands.

    “Embedded in China’s culture and social structure, diaosi is a symbol representing an antagonism against the wealthy and powerful people at the top of China’s society and against the social rules created by them,” Huang wrote.

    The targets for mockery include the gaofushuai, slang for “tall, rich, handsome,” the baifumei, or “fair-skinned, rich, beautiful,” and the erdai, or “second-generation,” whose parents are wealthy and well-connected.

    Karita Kan, a professor in applied social sciences at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, wrote that embracing the term diaosi is a way of sticking it to the man.

    “It displays a playful irreverence for authority and established institutions through a non-violent but uncooperative discourse,” she wrote in the journal China Perspectives in 2013.

    The same can be said for the new character, whose creator appears to have been trolling the government and its penchant for self-promotion.

    Qiou began appearing on Chinese social media a few days after the Commercial Press publishing house announced the finalists for China’s 2018 word of the year.

    The contest began in 2003 and is run by the Communist Party’s newspaper, People’s Daily, and several other institutions approved by the government.

    The nominees, which include phrases as well as words, often play off Communist Party slogans about a bright Chinese future.

    This year’s included “stability,” “international import expo,” “change,” and — in a nod to the party’s most visible propaganda campaign of the year — “reform and opening for forty years.”

    China's official 2018 character of the year is fen, "striving." (The Commercial Press, Weibo, Dec. 20, 2018)

    The winner, announced Thursday, was fen, or “striving.”

    “Fen is for the people’s brave striving toward a beautiful life, even more for the Communist Party’s selfless striving toward lofty ideals and beliefs, for difficult striving and courageous, forward striving toward realizing the Chinese people’s great China Dream of revival,” the Commercial Press announcement said. “… In the magnificent picture of the new era, striving itself is a form of happiness.”

    Qiou never even had a chance.
    Now I really want to use 'diaosi' - wonder what the tones are...
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  2. #107
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    Meanwhile, in Uganda

    BY ISMAIL AKWEI, at 03:00 pm, December 24, 2018, NEWS
    Uganda to introduce Chinese as compulsory subject in secondary schools

    Secondary school in Uganda -- Photo: Uganda Rural Fund

    The Ugandan government has trained 35 teachers to be posted to 35 secondary schools in the five regions of the country to teach the Chinese language.

    The language has been added to the secondary school curriculum as a compulsory subject for first and second year students next year, but optional for seniors, reports local media Daily Monitor.

    The Minister for Presidency, Esther Mbayo, announced the decision at the graduation ceremony of the selected teachers at the Luyanzi College in Bweyogerere, Wakiso District last Thursday.

    She said the decision to make Chinese a subject in schools was as a result of the increasing bilateral trade and the growing friendship between the two countries, reports Daily Monitor.

    “We have received starting materials such as textbooks and illustrations. We have also received some tutors from the Chinese government and we are ready to take on the programme come next year,” Mbayo added expressing readiness for the programme.

    The 35 teachers were trained for nine months by Chinese instructors and have already been posted to the schools to start the lessons.

    According to the director of the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), Grace Baguma, about 100 teachers will be trained in the next two years to expand the curriculum to all secondary schools in the country.

    She added that the Makerere University in Kampala will introduce a bachelor’s course in Chinese language and culture which will provide more teachers to sustain the curriculum.

    China has huge investments in Uganda, including the establishment of several industrial parks across the east African country. The Chinese are also financiers of major infrastructure projects such as the expansion of Entebbe International Airport, the principal international airport of Uganda and the Karuma and Isimba hydropower plants.

    President Yoweri Museveni recently directed the army to protect Chinese workers at industrial parks where they’ve faced a series of gang attacks.
    We've discussed the connection between China and Africa a little bit on our Shaolin's African Disciples thread. That thread is an barometer of the trade and such happening between these two. It's important to watch if you follow global market trends.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  3. #108
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    Slightly OT

    This is a good explanation of something I've often wondered about but didn't bother to research.

    Why Mandarin Doesn’t Come From Chinese
    The name of the world’s most spoken language has a surprising origin story.
    JAN 4, 2019

    Mandarin duck showing off in Central Park SETH WENIG / AP

    Since the mandarin duck appeared in Central Park last fall, his unexpected presence has stirred up many questions: Where did he come from? Why is he so hot? Can such beauty survive in our garbage world? And, for the linguistics nerds out there, where do mandarin ducks get their name?

    Yes, true, mandarin ducks are native to China, where Mandarin is the official language. But the word mandarin has a more roundabout origin. It does not come from Mandarin Chinese, which refers to itself as putonghua (or “common speech”) and China, the country, as zhongguo (or “Middle Kingdom”). It doesn’t come from any other variant of Chinese, either. Its origins are Portuguese.

    This one word encapsulates an entire colonial history. In the 16th century, Portuguese explorers were among the first Europeans to reach China. Traders and missionaries followed, settling into Macau on land leased from China’s Ming dynasty rulers. The Portuguese called the Ming officials they met mandarim, which comes from menteri in Malay and, before that, mantrī in Sanskrit, both of which mean “minister” or “counselor.” It makes sense that Portuguese would borrow from Malay; they were simultaneously colonizing Malacca on the Malay peninsula.

    For centuries, Europeans’ impressions of China filtered largely through the Portuguese. The 16th-century Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci, for instance, was Italian, but he arrived in China through Portuguese Macau. Following the twisty logic of colonialism, when he attempted to transpose Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet, he made use of both Italian and Portuguese, comparing the sounds of individual characters to the sounds of Portuguese and Italian words. Even today, “linguists go to town and try to figure [out] what Chinese would have sounded like at the time,” says David Moser, author of A Billion Voices: China’s Search for a Common Language. “They could use as a clue the way Matteo Ricci wrote the Portuguese.”

    Over time, the Portuguese coinage of “mandarin” took on other meanings. The Ming dynasty officials wore yellow robes, which may be why “mandarin” came to mean a type of citrus. “Mandarin” also lent its names to colorful animals native to Asia but new to Europeans, like wasps and snakes and, of course, ducks. And the language the Chinese officials spoke became “Mandarin,” which is how the English name for the language more than 1 billion people in China speak still comes from Portuguese.

    But words have a way of collecting just-so origin stories, and Chinese speakers have sometimes retroactively given a Chinese origin to “mandarin,” says Moser. It sounds similar enough to mandaren, a phrase that could mean “important Manchurian.” The rulers of China’s last dynasty, the Qing, were from Manchuria, so it make sense if you squint at it. “But it’s not true,” says Moser. “Mandarin” has a distinctly non-Mandarin origin.

    “Mandarin” is what linguists call an exonym, an external name for a place, people, or language. And exonyms often tell a history of how cultures met, fought, and interacted. Many English names for continental European cities derive not from the local language but from French—probably a legacy of the Norman conquest of England. For example, English and French both use Cologne for Köln, Florence for Firenze, Prague for Praha, and Belgrade for Beograd.

    In other cases, says the lexicographer Grant Barrett, exonyms arise because two places have a relationship that pre-dates current national boundaries. For example, adds the linguist Anatoly Liberman, we use “Germany” from the Latin Germania. In French, the name is Allemagne from a group of tribes called the Alemanni; in Finnish, Saksa from the Saxons. Germany (Deutschland in German) only became a unified country in 1871, long after other Europeans had adopted their own names for the place, based on different peoples who once lived there.

    From the vantage point of English speakers, many of the exonyms for non-European places and languages come filtered through the languages of former colonial powers. Bombay and Ceylon, for example, also come from the Portuguese, whose empire once sprawled through Asia. The names imposed by colonial powers can be controversial, of course; Bombay and Ceylon have since officially changed their names to Mumbai and Sri Lanka. The name “Mandarin” still endures, perhaps because its origin is more obscure or because China has enjoyed warmer relations with Portugal than with other European countries. As for the mandarin ducks, they also live in Portugal now.

    We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

    SARAH ZHANG is a staff writer at The Atlantic.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  4. #109
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    slightly ot

    The gung (工) in gung-ho is the radical for the kung (功) in Kung Fu. I often omit the radical bit to simplify the notion for nooBs.

    The Long, Strange Journey Of 'Gung-Ho'
    Code Switch
    October 18, 201911:00 AM ET

    The gung-ho slogan adopted by some Marines became so well-known that it was turned into a 1943 movie.
    LMPC/Getty Images

    Maybe you're a college freshman, emailing all of your professors before the semester starts to tell them how absolutely thrilled you are to be in their class. Or perhaps you're a world leader expressing how totally great your international trade talks are about to go.

    Or maybe you just had the best idea for, like, a startup. You're drawing up plans on napkins, you can see the city lined with posters for your astrology-based wine club or whatever, you're figuring out what color Tesla you're gonna get with those sweet, sweet Pinot-Scorpio returns. Within hours, you call up a friend to ask them to invest.

    "Woah, slow down," they say. "You're being a little gung-ho about this."

    Gung-ho describes enthusiasm — often to the point of naivete. But it didn't always. The original Chinese is 工業合作社, which means "industrial cooperative" —工業, (gōng yè) meaning "industry", and 合作社, (hé zuò shè) meaning "cooperative." We're talking organizations democratically run by workers, producing industrial goods like blankets and military uniforms.

    工業合作社 was abbreviated, as many long Chinese proper nouns are, to the first character of each part, 工合. Today, we would Romanize it to gōng hé, but in the 1930s, the same sounds turned into kung ho, or gung-ho.

    So how did it go from describing a leftist co-op to an overzealous try-hard? To get the full story, we have to go back almost a century, to 1930s China.

    By many accounts, China during that era was not doing super well. The country was largely economically reliant on Japan. Civil war was breaking out. In 1937, Japan invaded and kicked off the second Sino-Japanese War. Tens of millions of people living around Shanghai flooded inland, becoming refugees in their own country. The civilian casualties were massive. Over eight years, an estimated 17 million civilians died, and 95 million more people became refugees.

    During the 2nd Sino-Japanese War, in late 1940, a crowd of Chinese refugees push to enter the French Concession of Shanghai.
    George Krainukov/Getty Images

    The industrial cooperative movement sought to address the problems caused by the war: a general lack of resources for both civilians and the military, and refugees in need of work. Though the movement was relatively small, with 30,000 workers at 3,000 factories at its peak, it got outsized attention because English-speaking foreigners were involved, many of whom were central to forming the International Committee for the Promotion of Industrial Chinese Cooperatives (ICCIC). Its mission was "organizing the unemployed workers and refugees for production to support the War of Resistance."

    According to Anne-Marie Brady, that collaboration was how gung-ho entered the lexicon of many English speakers. Brady is a professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand who specializes in politics in China. She says that the country back then "was very different from China today. It was quite easy for foreigners to engage with activities in China and be part of a solution for addressing a serious problem like refugees."

    One such foreigner was a fellow named Evans Fordyce Carlson. Carlson was a U.S. Marine who was somewhat involved with the ICCIC. The term's current use stems from the way Carlson interpreted and popularized it.

    In 1937, Carlson arrived in Shanghai to serve his third tour in China. He was the first foreign military observer of the guerrilla soldiers of the 8th Route Army, (aka the Red Army, aka the Communist army). Carlson spent nearly two years with the members of the Red Army, traveling thousands of miles with them, sometimes behind enemy lines. He was impressed by their mobility and flexibility, as well as the concern for their fellow soldiers' welfare. A Life magazine profile from 1943 said, "In Carlson's opinion the 8th Route Army is the best-organized, best-led fighting force in the world today for its size and purpose."

    And for some reason, Carlson associated the Red Army with the Industrial Cooperative movement. He believed that gung-ho meant something about teamwork. (It doesn't, and according to Brady, the cooperatives would have only been affiliated with the Communists in local pockets.)

    Between 1939 and 1941, Carlson's life took some odd twists and turns. In 1939, he resigned from the Marine Corps because he was being censured for his vocal pro-China views. Then he wrote two books about China (one titled Twin Stars of China: A Behind-the-Scenes Story of China's Valiant Struggle for Existence by a U.S. Marine who Lived & Moved with the People). He spent time touring China, examining the cooperatives and slowly coming to believe that U.S. war with Japan was inevitable.

    So soon enough, Carlson rejoined the Marines and was given control of the newly-established 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, which came to be known as "Carlson's Raiders."

    Lt. Col. Evans Fordyce Carlson, shown with Maj. Ralph H. Coyte, was given control of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, which came to be known as "Carlson's Raiders."
    Corbis via Getty Images

    The Red Army influenced now-Lt. Col. Carlson's leadership in a deeply idealistic way; every man would have input into the plans and officers had no distinct privileges until everyone felt they were earned. In From Makin to Bougainville: Marine Raiders in the Pacific War, Maj. Jon. T. Hoffman describes it as "an unconventional military philosophy that was an admixture of Chinese culture, Communist egalitarianism, and New England town hall democracy."

    Calson told Life, "I was trying to build up the same sort of working spirit I had seen in China where all the soldiers dedicated themselves to one idea and worked together to put that idea over. I told the boys about it again and again, I told them of the motto of the Chinese Cooperatives, Gung Ho. It means Work Together — Work in Harmony." (Again, it did not.)

    He went on: "My motto caught on and they began to call themselves the Gung Ho Battalion. When I designed a field jacket to replace the bulky and orthodox pack they even called it the Gung Ho jacket. And they named every new thing Gung Ho. It became the watchword."

    He's not exaggerating about every new thing. According to Christopher Blaker, a historian and editor with the U.S. Marine Corps History Division, "Their long combat knives were called 'Gung Ho' knives, their hunting jackets were christened 'Gung Ho' jackets, and meetings in the field became 'Gung Ho' meetings. They even named their camp on the island of Espiritu Santo 'Camp Gung Ho.' "

    Carlson's Raiders gained acclaim and recognition for the action they saw in the Gilbert and Lower Solomon Islands in mid-1942. These were some of the first World War II victories for the U.S. against Japan, so the U.S. made sure to get the story in front of the public. Carlson's Raiders were celebrated by the military and covered extensively in the Saturday Evening Post.

    In 1943, there was even a movie released called Gung Ho!: The Story of Carlson's Makin Island Raiders (an old-fashioned propaganda romp that could probably stand to be a third the length). And so, the phrase leaked its way into the English language.

    A curious thing happened to gung-ho as it spread, though — it started to be a little less earnest, taking on the meaning it has now, that someone's a little too enthusiastic. The linguist Albert Moe, who wrote an extensive article about gung-ho in 1967, writes, "As early as the latter part of 1942, Marines other than those in the Second Raider Battalion used gung-ho as a term of disparagement to describe anyone whose conduct or behavior was obnoxious or offensive." Apparently, the Marine Raiders were known for being rowdy and ready to prove how "rough and tough" they were. "As a result, the Gung Ho Battalion and its personnel soon were referred to as the 'gung ho *******s.' "

    Moe cites a 1952 glossary of Marine slang with the following definition: "GUNG HO. 1. aggressive esprit de corps; 2. sometimes sardonically employed to characterize cocky indiscipline or contempt toward orthodox procedures and regulations."

    Outside of conversational use, gung-ho seems to have taken on some other vague definitions, in order to signal anything from teamwork to militariness to a kind of broad "Asian-ness." It's the name of so many different companies (like really): a French-Cajun G.I. Joe Character, a business strategy book from 1998 that exotifies both the Chinese origins AND Native Americans, and a 1986 Ron Howard film about Japanese businessmen in Pennsylvania, featuring Engrish that will make your skeleton ache.

    With time and enthusiasm (maybe too much enthusiasm) gung-ho has come to mean whatever people want it to mean. So next time you hear it in the wild, remember that it was originally Chinese jargon that English speakers wanted to be meaningful so hard that they just ... made it happen.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  5. #110
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.


    'nega' & 'zhege' are key words to know. I couldn't have survived in China without them.

    USC Suspended a Communications Professor for Saying a Chinese Word That Sounds Like a Racial Slur
    Greg Patton was describing the Chinese filler word "nega," which earned him a temporary suspension.
    ROBBY SOAVE | 9.3.2020 3:29 PM

    (Bobak Ha'Eri / Wiki Commons)

    Greg Patton is a professor of clinical business communication at the University of Southern California. During a recent virtual classroom session, he was discussing public speaking patterns and the filler words that people use to space out their ideas: um, er, etc. Patton mentioned that the Chinese often use a word that is pronounced like nega.

    "In China the common word is 'that, that that that,' so in China it might be 'nega, nega, nega, nega,'" Patton explained to his class. "So there's different words you'll hear in different cultures, but they're vocal disfluencies."

    But because the Chinese word nega sounds like ******, some students were offended and reported the matter to the administration. Patton is now suspended, according to Campus Reform:

    On Tuesday evening, the USC Marshall School of Business provided Campus Reform with a statement, confirming that Patton is no longer teaching his course.

    "Recently, a USC faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English. We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language," the statement read.

    Patton "agreed to take a short term pause while we are reviewing to better understand the situation and to take any appropriate next steps."

    Another instructor is temporarily teaching the class.

    USC is now "offering supportive measures to any student, faculty, or staff member who requests assistance." The school is "committed to building a culture of respect and dignity where all members of our community can feel safe, supported, and can thrive."

    This is ridiculous. It seems clear that Patton did not mean to harm anyone, and that the point he was making was perfectly valid. The resemblance between these two words is purely coincidental, and adults should be perfectly capable of hearing the Chinese version without fainting in front of their computer screens. Anyone who is this prepared to be bothered all the time needs to turn down their outrage dial.

    "I'll say this ten thousand times, but if anyone thinks they're helping the cause of racial equality by engaging in absurd, over-the-top speech policing of innocent people, then they're sadly mistaken," wrote The Dispatch's David French.

    There is nothing for the university to investigate: Patton should be restored to his teaching position immediately. If anything, the offended students should apologize to him for causing the inconvenience.
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  6. #111
    If any of you have audible I really like this audio book:

    Learn Mandarin Chinese with Paul Noble for Beginners – Complete Course: Mandarin Chinese Made Easy with Your Personal Language Coach

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