Scholarship and education
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Monday, August 20, 2007 at 3:49 PM
Late last week, the the Ministry of Education released a paper on the the state of the Chinese language in contemporary society, representing the results of an investigation into how the Chinese language is used in Chinese media.
Covering traditional media like newspapers and TV as well as new online media, the paper is actually pretty interesting once you get past the executive summary, "Building a harmonious linguistic life." There's a survey of blogging language that examined over 400,000 blog posts comprising more than 135 million characters. Another interesting survey looked at word frequency data drawn from textbooks used in teaching Chinese as a second language.
What caught the media's attention, however, were some quirky, easily-digestible bits of information presented at the press conference. A list of 171 new additions to Chinese vocabulary, for example, or examples of imaginative personal names. Here's part of a Reuters story:
Even for a "news of the weird"-style feature, the @ story stretches the bounds of what can be considered "news" - Li Yuming's remark, which doesn't even mention the name of the family, was probably made in reference to a case from almost three years ago, in which a certain Mr. Wang tried to register his son's name as "王@." From the Yangzi Evening News for 12 October, 2004:
And that was the last we heard of that incident until Li Yuming picked it out as an example of problems faced in developing an effective computerized registration system.
The Reuters story continues:
While the ignorance of fluent speakers can't be helped (indeed, there often seems to be a sort of perverse pride in having a name that trips people up), the computer issue is an acknowledged problem that the country's public security bureaus are in the process of addressing through system and software upgrades.
But why did this problem come about in the first place? Why, because of inferior foreign technology, of course.
Last December, before he was elevated to GAPP head, Liu Binjie wrote an article on the development of China's new media that was published in the GAPP journal Media. It was later republished in Youth Journalist and then in last month's Xinhua Wenzhai digest magazine. The pertinent section:
People with rare characters in their names can hold out hope that an upgraded font set will solve their problems without forcing them to change their names. But I still wouldn't bet on meeting many people named @ in the near future.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
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Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
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From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.