Tag Archives: Chinese

Chinese pronunciation tip 3: Mao Zedong, Cao Xueqin, Z, C

I’ve added another pronunciation tip on Chinese, and you can expect a few more. Then I’ll move on… there are lots of other languages that people wonder about. Expect Hungarian, Finnish, Turkish, and lots more. But today, it’s time for Chairman Mao… and a closing quotation that is not from his little red book but may have to do with politics.

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Chinese pronunciation tip 2: Q, X, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang

It’s time for another pronunciation tip on the Pinyin Romanization of Mandarin Chinese. Last time I told you about a letter you should say just as it looks. This time I’m telling you about two letters where there’s no question of doing that!

Chinese pronunciation tips part 1: Beijing, Zhongguo, Zhang

I know that Chinese names can be challenging for English speakers to figure out how to say. So I’m going to give you some tips. First up: what sounds j and zh actually stand for.

How do you say “laptop” in Lakota?

I’ve been on vacation the last few days, so I haven’t gotten to posting a word tasting. But my latest article for The Week is up. This one came at the suggestion and with the assistance of several people involved in the Lakota language preservation projects, and it took me far too long to get around to writing. I was lucky to have enough background in the other languages I mention: Mandarin, Icelandic, French… but the Lakota is the centrepiece, and the point is:

This is how old languages add new words

 

“ಠ ಠ what is that alphabet?” “ ツ easy!”

Another article for The Week! Actually, I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but it took a while getting posted because they were busy with the thing I wrote my other piece this week about, which shall not be mentioned here.

Anyway, this piece is the necessary sequel to the “How to identify languages” piece. That one focused on the Latin alphabet. This one looks at all the other alphabets. (Well, most of them. The Cree and Cherokee syllabic alphabets were cut to save length. And I skipped a few others that you really are unlikely to bump into.) It even has tips on telling apart languages that use the Cyrillic alphabet – and ones that use Arabic script!

How to identify Asian, African, and Middle Eastern alphabets at a glance

Peking, Beijing, whazzup?

Pity the capital city of China. No matter what, its name gets mispronounced. It used to be written Peking, but that led to millions of people saying it like an act of voyeurism. Now it’s written Beijing, and anglophones all over the world can’t believe that a j could represent anything like how we say it in English, so in the spirit of foreignness they blubber the b and say the j as though it were French.

In fact, the phonemes involved in the name of China’s capital are such that Peking (the Yale transliteration), Pei-ching (Wade-Giles style, but never commonly used) and Beijing (Pinyin style) are all arguably viable, but all misleading in one way or another for the simple reason that the sounds used are not all sounds we make in English. Continue reading