Feed of posts from useful sites

Sinica - Tu Youyou and the Nobel Prize

Popup Chinese Lessons - Wed, 10/21/2015 - 11:14

This week on Sinica, we are delighted to present a show on Tu Youyou, the Chinese scientist who recently shared a Nobel Prize in Medicine for her discovery of the anti-malaria compound artemisinin, thus making her the first citizen of the People's Republic of China to receive the Nobel Prize in the natural sciences. [standalone mp3 file]

Pinyin font: Arca

Pīnyīn News - Tue, 10/20/2015 - 12:05

Today’s Pinyin-friendly font is another display face: Arca Dashed, by Ricardo Marcin and Erica Jung. It has a papercut style.

The other members of the Arca family, which users may find a bit more serviceable, are commercial.

AP exams: using highest and lowest scores to look at the case of Chinese

Pīnyīn News - Mon, 10/19/2015 - 15:00

The results of the Advanced Placement exams from the College Board can give us an idea of what’s going on with the teaching of Mandarin Chinese in U.S. high schools.

As the charts below demonstrate, there’s something very different about the scores for the AP exam in Chinese Language and Culture compared with the scores for just about everything else.

The tests are graded on a five-point scale, with a 5 being the top score. Generally, a 3 is considered a pass, though some universities choose to give or deny credit based on different scores.

The first chart shows the percentage of of test takers who received a score of just 1 (lowest) on their respective AP exams. The median of the figures below for the percentage of test takers who received the lowest score is 18.2. The figure for Chinese (in green, at 3.2) is just 0.18 times that. Studio Art Drawing and Studio Art 2-D Design are at about the same level here as Chinese Language and Culture. But everything else is at least twice that — in most cases many times that.

AP Exams Taken by the Class of 2013 During High School: Percent of Exams with the Lowest Score

(click any chart to enlarge it)

So, relatively speaking, almost no one received the lowest score on the AP Chinese Language and Culture exam.

What about the highest score? The median of the figures below for the percentage of test takers who received the highest score (of 5) on their respective AP exams is 13.9. The figure for Chinese is 5.0 times that.

AP Exams Taken by the Class of 2013 During High School: Percent of Exams with the Highest Score

Finally, below is a chart putting the differences into greater perspective. It shows the ratio of highest scores to lowest scores on various AP exams.

The median of the figures below for the ratio of highest scores to lowest scores on the AP exams is 0.8. The figure for Chinese is 27.1 times that.

As is obvious from the image below, nothing else is even close.

AP Exams Taken by the Class of 2013 During High School: Ratio of Highest Scores to Lowest Scores

The reason for this massive difference is that the Advanced Placement exam for Chinese Language and Culture is taken mainly by native speakers and others who generally have not had to learn most of their Mandarin in their high school AP classes. This doesn’t bode well for newcomers to the language who want to learn. But as lopsided as the situation is, things are improving. More on that in later posts.

source: The 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, February 11, 2014

See also Results of US AP exams: first year for Mandarin, Japanese, Pinyin News, February 14, 2008.

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 005: Brad Saap

Chinese Learn Online - Mon, 10/19/2015 - 02:20

In this episode, I interview Brad Sapp. Brad spent 13 years in China working in trade companies in Beijing and Qingdao. He currently lives in Toronto, where he continues to actively engage with Chinese clients.

Listen to this podcast to learn:

- How Brad landed up in China
– His approach to learning Chinese
– His take on learning characters and writing
– What it was like to work for a Chinese company
– The advantage to being able to speak Chinese
– The business culture differences with Chinese companies
– How he dealt with Chinese staff who didn’t speak English
– How he uses Chinese outside of China
– The perspective of Chinese immigrants in Canada
– How learning Chinese compares to other languages

Pinyin font: Noto

Pīnyīn News - Fri, 10/16/2015 - 10:36

I shouldn’t go too long without mentioning Google’s ambitious Noto project, which offers both serif and sans-serif versions: Noto Serif and Noto Sans.

When text is rendered by a computer, sometimes there will be characters in the text that can not be displayed, because no font that supports them is available to the computer. When this occurs, small boxes are shown to represent the characters. We call those small boxes “tofu,” and we want to remove tofu from the Web. This is how the Noto font families got their name.

Noto helps to make the web more beautiful across platforms for all languages. Currently, Noto covers over 30 scripts, and will cover all of Unicode in the future. This is the Sans Latin, Greek and Cyrillic family. It has Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic styles and is hinted. It is derived from Droid, and like Droid it has a serif sister family, Noto Serif.

Noto fonts for many other languages are available as web fonts from the Google Web Fonts Early Access page.

Noto fonts are intended to be visually harmonious across multiple languages, with compatible heights and stroke thicknesses.

(Emphasis added.)

And it’s free, of course.

Number of Chinese majors in U.S. universities holding steady

Pīnyīn News - Thu, 10/15/2015 - 10:47

In 2013, a total of 706 U.S. students majoring in Chinese graduated, a gain of just 6 students over the previous year. In addition, Japanese as a major continues to attract significantly more students than Mandarin.

By way of contrast, in 2013 a total of 12,703 U.S. students graduated with degrees in Spanish.

Despite the strong growth of interest in Mandarin over the past two decades or so, only 2.34% of all students in U.S. universities majoring in a foreign language are majoring in Chinese, so the percentage of Mandarin majors among students overall is tiny indeed.

The numbers are for graduating seniors in those years.

Source: Data on Second Majors in Language and Literature, 2001–13, MLA Office of Research, Web publication, February 2015

Diing Dong

Pīnyīn News - Wed, 10/14/2015 - 11:15

A doubled vowel is a sure sign of the Gwoyeu Romatzyh romanization system — except when it’s a sign of someone wrongly omitting an apostrophe in Hanyu Pinyin or simply making a typo. But today’s example is certainly Gwoyeu Romatzyh, as, oddly enough, the side of a coach bus is one of the most likely places in Taiwan to spot an example of that romanization system. I’m seeing it less and less as the years go by, though, which saddens me.

Here, however, is a nice example that looks fairly new. I took the photo along Taidong’s lovely coastline a couple of weeks ago.

Diing Dong Bus (Pinyin: Ding3 Dong1; lit. ancient three-legged round cauldron, east)

Note, too, the mixing of Mandarin and English (rather than the loanword form of bashi), and those hideously misplaced g’s.

China down slightly as destination for U.S. study abroad students

Pīnyīn News - Tue, 10/13/2015 - 13:59

Rapid growth in U.S. students going to China to study has not been seen since around 2008. In fact, in the most recent school year for which we have data (2012–2013), the total fell to 14,413, down slightly from the 14,887 U.S. students studying in China during the 2011–2012 school year.


Meanwhile, the number of students from China studying in the United States is back on the rise.

Note, the chart below is not of the absolute number of Chinese students in the United States but of the ratio of Chinese students in the United States to U.S. students in China — just because I thought it might be more interesting. If you’d like to the see the numbers for the former, then check the source document.

China is the leading place of origin for students coming to the United States, with Chinese students comprising 31% of international students in the United States. They’re about evenly divided between undergrad and grad students.

Source: Open Doors Fact Sheet: China.

Growth in US postsecondary Mandarin enrollments stalls

Pīnyīn News - Mon, 10/12/2015 - 14:55

Back in 2008 I took a close look at U.S. post-secondary enrollments in foreign languages and the position of Mandarin. I’ve recently been examining the latest figures (for which there is still a lag of a couple years).

I’ve included data for all available years, other than 1969 and a couple years in the early 1970s because the numbers were calculated differently then.

These represent the total enrollments for courses labeled “Mandarin” or some form of “Chinese” (including “classical” but excluding modern languages such as Cantonese, Taiwanese, etc.). Failure to add the sometimes separately categorized “Mandarin” to the figures for “Chinese” would produce the wrong results.

As can be seen in the graph below, over the most recent period (2009–2013) growth in enrollments in Mandarin in U.S. universities basically came to a halt, increasing just 0.6 percent. I do not expect a return to the dramatic increases common before 2009.


Click to enlarge.

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 004: Edward Greve

Chinese Learn Online - Mon, 10/12/2015 - 03:15

In this episode, I interview Edward Greve. Edward is an American who has lived in Taiwan for the past 8 years. He initially started as an English teacher and is now doing a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics.

Listen to find out:

  • What brought Edward to Taiwan in the first place
  • What process he took to learn Chinese on the side
  • His standard process to learn a new language
  • His stance on learning characters from the very beginning
  • The difference between learning simplified versus traditional characters
  • Who he practiced speaking with
  • His take on learning Taiwanese and other local dialects
  • What he’s doing now with computational linguistics
  • How learning Chinese compares to learning other languages like Italian, Dutch, French, German, Thai and Indonesian
  • About the scripts used in different Chinese dialects like Taiwanese and Cantonese
  • The importance of being able to express yourself through written Chinese
  • The advantages of being able to speak Mandarin while living in a Chinese community

Milk Shop

Pīnyīn News - Thu, 10/08/2015 - 05:10

Here’s another in my series of photos of English with Chinese character(istic)s, that is Chinese characters being used to write English (sort of). I want to stress that these aren’t loan words, just an approximate phonetic rendering of the English.

Today’s entry — which was taken a few weeks ago in Xinzhu (usually spelled “Hsinchu”), Taiwan — is Mi2ke4 Xia4 (lit. “lost guest summer”).

Pinyin font: Promocyja

Pīnyīn News - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 15:26

Here’s a public-domain script font: Promocyja.

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 003: Aaron Posehn

Chinese Learn Online - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 03:51

In this episode, I interview Aaron Posehn. He’s a Canadian, with a degree in Asian studies, who moved to Taiwan to work as an editor.

Listen to find out:

  • How Aaron got interested in Chinese culture
  • What it was like to be the only non Asian in a Chinese class of 300
  • About his first trip to China and Mongolia
  • Why learning Chinese alone isn’t enough to work in a Chinese company
  • About Aaron’s Chinease book and website.
  • What it’s like to be living in Taipei and interacting with others in Chinese
  • What he would do differently, if he was to learn Chinese again

 

Sinica - Edmund Backhouse in the Long View of History

Popup Chinese Lessons - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 06:14

Edmund Backhouse, the 20th century Sinologist, long-time Beijing resident, and occasional con-artist, is perhaps best known for his incendiary memoirs, which not only distorted Western understanding of Chinese history for more than 50 years, but also included what in retrospect can only be seen as patently fictitious stories of erotic encounters between the British Baronet and the Empress Dowager Cixi.

This week on Sinica, we are delighted to be joined by Derek Sandhaus of Earnshaw Books, who has recently produced an abridged edition of Backhouse's memoirs for the Hong Kong publishing house. As an expert on the facts and fictions of Edmund Backhouse, Derek joins us for a discussion of what is real and less-than-real in Backhouse's deathbed reminiscences, and what we can and should learn about Qing-era China from his memoirs. [standalone mp3 download]

PRC’s official rules for Pinyin: 2012 revision — in traditional Chinese characters

Pīnyīn News - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 04:59

Last week I put online China’s official rules for Hanyu Pinyin, the 2012 revision (GB/T 16159-2012). I’ve now made a traditional-Chinese-character version of those rules for Pinyin.

Eventually I’ll also issue versions in Pinyin and English.


(Note: The image above is of course Photoshopped. I altered the cover of the PRC standard simply to provide an illustration in traditional Chinese characters for this post.)

Pinyin font: Chispa

Pīnyīn News - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 10:39

Today’s Pinyin-friendly font is Chispa, by Joan Alegret of La Tipomatica. It’s freeware.

Crunchy

Pīnyīn News - Tue, 09/29/2015 - 02:48

I tend to think of Hanzi being used to write English words as “Singlish,” after John DeFrancis’s classic spoof, “The Singlish Affair,” which is the opening chapter of his essential book The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy. But these days the word is mainly used for Singaporean English. So now I usually go with something like “English with Chinese character(istic)s.”

For a few earlier examples, see the my photos of the dog and the butterfly businesses.

Today’s example is “Crunchy,” written as ke3 lang3 qi2 (can bright strange). Kelangqi, however, isn’t how to say “crunchy” in Mandarin (cui4 de is); it’s just an attempt to render the English word using Chinese characters, probably in an attempt to look different and cool.

Crunchy, which is now out of business, was just a block away from the Dog (dou4 ge2) store, which is still around.

Pinyin font: Chonburi

Pīnyīn News - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 04:01

Chonburi, by Cadson Demak, is a Pinyin-friendly font that also covers Thai.

Because of its relatively small size, it could work well on Thai-language Web pages that also include Pinyin. Maybe there aren’t many of those now, but eventually….

It is available through Google Fonts.

Learn Chinese Insights Podcast Episode 002: Elias Ek

Chinese Learn Online - Mon, 09/28/2015 - 03:56

In this episode, I interview Elias Ek.

Elias is from Sweden, but has lived in Taiwan for the past 25 years, where he runs his own company, Enspyre.

Listen to find out about:

  • Elias’ first encounter in Chinese in Taiwan
  • His first job in Taiwan
  • Experience of working as a foreigner in a Taiwanese company
  • His breakthrough in learning Chinese
  • His experience on learning speaking without characters
  • His use of Chinese while running his own company in Taiwan
  • How he prepares for giving speeches in Chinese
  • His approach interviewing new employees
  • Why classroom language learning is broken
  • Difference in western versus Chinese business culture
  • How he elicits ideas from his staff
  • What he would change about his strategy learning Chinese
  • How Chinese compares in difficulty to other languages

Xin Tang 10

Pīnyīn News - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 06:40

I’ve just added to Pinyin.info the tenth and final issue (December 1989) of the seminal journal Xin Tang. I strongly encourage everyone to take a look at it and some of the other issues. Copies of this journal are extremely rare; but their importance is such that I’ll be putting all of them online here over the years.

Xin Tang 10

Although I’m giving the table of contents in English, the articles themselves are in Mandarin and written in Pinyin.

  • FEATURE ARTICLES
    • ZHOU YOUGUANG: The Next Step of Language Modernization
    • CHEN ENQUAN: Experiments Should Be Carried Out on the Phoneticization of Chinese Characters
    • LI YUAN: Romanized Chinese Must Be Finalized
    • LI PING: To Be a Promoter of Script Reform
    • ZHENG LINXI: Wu Yuzhang and Chinese Phonetic Spelling
    • ZHANG LIQING: How Should the Tones of Chinese Spelling Be Indicated?
  • LITERATURE
    • LIQING: Elephants
    • CHEN XUANYOU (Tang Period): The Wandering Soul
    • WU JINGZI (Qing Period): Third Daughter Wang
    • LU XUN: On the Collapse of Thunder Peak Pagoda
    • RUI LUOBIN: The Adventures of Chunmei and Mimi
    • COMIC DIALOGUES: Toad Drums
    • WEI YIJIN: Dreams at Twenty
    • DIAO KE: In Praise o f the Spirit of Bees
    • GE XIAOLING: A Song to the Disabled Children
    • YBY: The Story of the Magic Square
  • SHORT SKETCHES
    • DIAN EWEN: Interesting Tidbits about Script Reform Abroad
    • LI YUAN: A Few Statistics on Tones Notations in Romanized Chinese
  • LEARNING MANDARIN
    • Asking the Way
  • FROM THE EDITORS
    • Farewell to Our Readers
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