Beijing Students Learn Through Translation

A group of young students at Western Academy, an international school in Beijing, finished off the school year with a memorable project: translating a series of children’s books into Chinese to be professionally published.The students, all around 10 to 11 years old, translated 8 illustrated children’s books with stories describing the day-to-day lives of kids in other countries.

As Wang Biao, of the Peking University Press Department of Chinese Language and Linguistics, which will publish the Chinese editions of the books, explained to China Daily:

“Our target readers are those children who are learning Chinese both in China and overseas…By describing children’s daily lives in different countries these books give a simple and vivid introduction to the cultural and historical features of the four countries.”

As they translated, the children encountered difficulties that would be familiar to any professional translator. One student, Lau Tin Sun, described these obstacles for China Daily:

“In the beginning, we thought it was really easy, but when we actually started translating, it was not as easy as we thought. English has a completely different grammar compared to Chinese. Therefore, it took us quite a lot of time and energy to change the grammar. But it was truly amazing to see the books in print. Publishing books during primary school, this is really a good memory.”

You might expect that the children would need help from a professional translator to produce a finished product capable of holding its own on bookshelves around the world, but you would be wrong. According to Peking University Press’ Deng Xiaoxia, the students’ work stood up quite well on its own:

“The kids’ translation is “amazing”, as the words they choose are “childish but interesting” and appeal to young readers – compared to the words used by professional translators.”

Congratulations, kids. K International salutes you!

Photo Credit: Lori Ann

Translation of Foreign Stores

New York City has long been a city of immigrants, the first stop for the “huddled masses” who got off the boat in Ellis Island. While modern-day Americans like to natter on about how those original huddled masses assimilated themselves immediately while today’s immigrants do not, the truth is that immigrants have long clustered together, creating neighbourhoods that reflect their cultures and remind them of home.

For example, the neighbourhood of Flushing in Queens is primarily Chinese and Korean, and it shows- especially in the Chinese- and Korean-language signs over the doors of shops and restaurants. As Peter Tu, the executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, told the Washington Post :

“People must respect that this is a special area and please respect the Asian culture. They have their own life in this area. When you walk in the street, you don’t feel like you are in America.”

For some New Yorkers, that’s precisely the problem. While many residents embrace the city’s multi-ethnic character, others are annoyed and alienated. In response, the Washington Post reports that two City Councilmen, Dan Halloran and Peter Koo, are drafting legislation that would require translation of foreign-language store signs. Read more

facts about Chinese

10 Facts About the Chinese Language for World Chinese Language Day

Every year, on the 20th of April, the United Nations celebrate World Chinese Language Day.  According to the UN, the purpose of this observance is “to celebrate multilingualism and cultural diversity as well as to promote equal use of all six official languages throughout the Organization.”

With that in mind, here are ten facts about the Chinese language (languages, really) for World Chinese Language Day.

Mandarin Chinese, the most common Chinese dialect, is the most widely spoken language in the world.

There are over 800 million native Mandarin speakers. Around the world, one out of five people speaks the language.

Mandarin is the official language of China. (It’s also referred to as Standard Chinese or Putonghua.) But that doesn’t mean Mandarin is the only language in China.  Far from it! While the many varieties of spoken Chinese are often called “dialects,” many of them are different enough to be languages in their own right.

When you look at all of the Chinese languages together, the number of speakers becomes even more staggering:  about 1.2 billion native speakers, or around 16% of the world’s population.

While spoken Chinese languages and dialects vary across the country, written Chinese has only slight regional variations.

That’s because the Chinese characters are logograms. They represent words or phrases rather than sounds.  As such, they transcend most of the variations in speech found across China. That said, there are some dialectal differences in written Chinese, particularly with Cantonese and Hakka.

Mostly, these differences are apparent in informal writing between friends or online. However, written Cantonese is sometimes used in adverts in Hong Kong, especially in Hong Kong’s Metro.

Chinese writing has over 50,000 characters.

That said, only about 20,000 of them are used today. Meanwhile, it only takes about 2-3,000 characters to read a newspaper.

Most Chinese adults can recognise around 8,000 characters without pulling out a dictionary. Read more

Online Role-Playing Game Teaches English to Chinese Students

According to the New York Times, the video game developer behind the popular Age of Empires game has just released a new video game in China aimed at teaching children a second language.

The fantasy role-playing game is called Wiz World Online, and it incorporates many of the elements that make role-playing games so exciting for children. For example, they get to choose their own avatars and solve challenges in a fantasy world. However, instead of testing how well they can combine spells or how fast they can press buttons, these challenges test their English skills.

The important thing about Wiz World Online is that it allows kids to practice everyday words and phrases in the language they are learning. Also, it allows them to pick up new skills as needed, by sending their character to a “wizard’s library” for English lessons.

By giving kids an incentive to practice, Wiz World Online helps them overcome the shortcomings of traditional, school-based language learning programs.

Alex Wang, the chief executive and co-founder of 8D world, the company responsible for the game, says that the seeds for the idea that later became Wiz World Online were planted during his first visit to America from China. Although he had studied English, he found that he had a hard time communicating in day-to-day conversations with English speakers. His classes simply hadn’t adequately prepared him to be alone in an English-speaking country.

Honestly, no matter how much you study a language in a classroom, visiting a country full of native speakers is likely to be a trial by fire. People use languages differently in real life than they are taught in class, and the only way to truly prepare for that would be to spend a lot of time talking to native speakers from the country and region that you are visiting before you go. Still, games like Wiz World Online have a place in language learning classrooms, especially if children like them enough to play them on their own time. Knowing the fundamentals makes it easier to catch on when you do travel to a foreign country, and too many language classes don’t even leave children with a fundamental grasp of the language.

LinkedIn, Now In Chinese

Last week, social networking juggernaut LinkedIn announced the release of their newest localised website in Simplified Chinese.  This is by no means the first attempt at translation for LinkedIn- the service is now available in a total of 22 different languages. However, moving into the Chinese market presents potential pitfalls not found in most other countries.

For one thing, expanding into China means that LinkedIn is obliged to cater to the Chinese government, censoring posts and collecting data on members in that country. Gary King,  the director of Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science, told Time that around 13 percent of all Chinese social media posts are censored. Issues related to censorship have caused both Google and Twitter to give up similar attempts to court Chinese consumers. Read more