Someone gave me a free (swag) water bottle the other day–looking at the picture on the box, I could see that the design was one that seems to be pretty popular these days. With a somewhat subdued design that wasn’t dominated by a corporate logo splashed everywhere (hidden here), it seemed like a keeper. Before throwing out the box, however, I thought it would be a good idea to check if I was going to be able to wash my water bottle in the dishwasher.
That’s when it happened– I picked up the box and….found myself looking at the French version of the description and instructions. The language learning mind games had begun.
As someone who likes to speak French sometimes (still a rusty B2), I was essentially faced with a question: read the French, or take the easy route and flip over to the English?
Pleco dictionary screenshot：
I posted some pictures while I was in China, but I had a few people asking if I could say a bit more about the competition and what it was all about, and perhaps post some video. I’m #6 in the picture here–it’s a screenshot taken from the video below. The clip is only about a minute long, but it nicely sums up the different parts of the show without boring you:). In another part of the video, you can see me looking at the host in surprised disbelief, and in another I’m playing my guitar.
To back up a bit, as I understand things, the show (汉语大会) is a cooperation between Chinese Central Television (CCTV4) and another branch of the Chinese government called Hanban. Hanban is the parent organization of the Confucius Institutes that you see all around the world. Their mission largely focuses on the goal of promoting Chinese culture and language learning; some people call this kind of thing “soft diplomacy”. In this respect, Hanban’s activities are quite similar to the efforts of other governments around the world (think of Spain’s Cervantes Institute, the German Goethe Institute, the French Alliance Française or The British Council).
With that background, my thinking is that the “star” of the show was the Chinese language. The principle aim was to celebrate Chinese language learning, show Chinese people that foreigners are indeed trying to learn Mandarin, and perhaps to encourage learners of Mandarin to continue with their studies.
I was one of 72 participants from around the world, and I was part of the “Americas” team with four Americans and a Brazilian. There were also teams (six people per group) from Africa, Oceana, Europe, Asia, as well as domestic teams from inside China– these teams comprised international students studying at Chinese universities. Most of the participants were much younger than me, but I actually wasn’t the oldest!
The show basically consisted of three parts: the 6 of us planning/rehearsing/performing a skit to show our understanding of a Chinese idiom; next, the six of us were together as a team in a kind of quiz show to test our knowledge of specific topics in Chinese language and culture; finally, each of us did an individual performance (i.e guitar, singing, martial arts, comedic monologue/tongue twisters).
At the end of the day, I think we did a good job; however, it just wasn’t enough to make it into the semi-finals. All things considered, it was an amazing experience. Some of the contestants have truly achieved a level of Chinese fluency and on-camera comfort that is really admirable . I came away from the experience feeling quite inspired to keep going with my studies.
I definitely have to close with a word of renewed thanks to the folks at my local Confucius Institute. I’m grateful for all the work they do, as well as their continued support and encouragement of all the Chinese learners here in Edmonton!
Hard to put words to this trip, but I’ll offer the following summary and let the pictures do the talking.
In short, I got an opportunity to come to China to participate in this year’s 汉语大会. It’s an annual Chinese proficiency contest that’s put together through Hanban, the people behind the Confucius Institute, and CCTV4, the international branch of Chinese Central Television. I would only commit to the trip if I could bring my son– thankfully, they obliged my request and he’s here with me.
I recently borrowed The Martian (Matt Damon as Mark Watney, stranded on Mars) from my local library; having only seen a fragment of a trailer for the movie at some point, I didn’t know much more than the basic plot line–it’s always nice when you can see a movie without having seen too many spoilers!
Apologies if I’m spoiling the movie for anyone here, but it was a pleasant and totally unexpected surprise to see a scene shot with Mandarin dialogue. I’m sure many students of the language shared my delight in following along with the dialogue.
There were a couple of words that I couldn’t catch, so I hit rewind and then ended up trying to search online to see how words like ‘orbit’ and (rocket) ‘booster’ are written (i.e. in Chinese characters). To my surprise, I wasn’t able to find the whole dialogue in one place, so I thought I would transcribe and capture it in one document and share it here.
Surely I can’t be the only language enthusiast who wanted to stop and soak up this dialogue? If you’re looking for the Mandarin spoken between Guo Ming (played by Eddy Ko) and Zhu Tao (played by Chen Shu) in the CNSA offices, I hope this pdf (click here or on image above) is useful for you!
The English you see in the movie subtitles is very accurate, save the small edits made for brevity. For example: “Their astronaut is going to die” (movie) vs. “Their astronaut is going to starve to death” (see above). I remember once hearing that subtitle translation for movies is a subtle art— because the human eye can only comfortably read so much dialogue as it flashes across the screen, translators need to be concise; in other words, we can’t read as fast as we can listen so sometimes the ‘correct’ translation isn’t the best one.
If anyone finds an error, let me know!
1. [key vocab, characters, pinyin]: Mandarin in The Martian: CNSA Dialogue (with pinyin)
2. tracing sheet (what is this?) : Dialogue only (no pinyin–汉子 only)
I was reading a blog article the other day about encouraging your child’s language learning through active encouragement of their progress, and the post definitely struck a chord with me. When I thought back to the children’s language school where I worked in China, you could definitely tell a difference in the enthusiasm and proficiency on the faces of the children who had parents who also liked to make English small talk with the teachers and staff.
As most working adults can sympathize, there never seems to be enough time to do everything you want (or need!) to do. With limited time to spend on language learning, it’s always great when you can combine it with other passions—- for me, spending time with my son watching Chinese cartoons has been a fantastic experience that enriches both of us. On that note, we’ve been working on singing the theme song to 熊出没 (Boonie Bears) and this video shows where we’re at now, including our practice writing out the lyrics.
I’m very proud of the progress that my son has made with Mandarin– it wasn’t something he was really interested in until we discovered this cartoon. It’s not our intention to ‘force’ him to learn Chinese, but watching this show has been solid source of inspiration on which to build.
This is a wonderful video that captures the story behind the Confucius Institute here in my city. I’ve said it in other posts, but after living in China for a few years, my earnest study of Mandarin didn’t really begin until I returned to Canada; as part of that process, I first got in touch with the CIE about four years ago to ask about participating in the HSK proficiency tests.
The staff have always been exceptionally warm and supportive—in addition to registering for the tests and making use of their fantastic library, I’ve also had the pleasure of participating in some of their public events.
I put the chart below together for someone I know who, despite having a strong grasp of English, often seems to get tripped up when talking about large numbers. It may seem like a trivial topic but this particular person works in a financial institution in a sales capacity…… I’m sure you can understand how a slip of the tongue in this kind of context might make someone lose confidence in their abilities.
I figured I could put something together that they could put beside their desk and refer to in a pinch– maybe it will work for you? Feel free to print/cut it out.
As it happens, this can be an issue for English speakers learning Chinese as well— the primary challenge being that English and Chinese (this is actually true of Japanese as well), put breaks at different points in large numbers. While English leaves things in clusters of three digits (thousands, millions, billions, trillions), Chinese groups the digits in clusters of four (i.e. units of 10,000: 万,亿,兆).