Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cat's Delite

When I was very young I wrote a story at school, during which I used the word 'delite'. The teacher corrected this to 'delight' using her angry red pen. Later that evening my mom was looking at my work, and asked me why I spelled it incorrectly like that. I pointed out that I had seen the spelling on TV - and indeed I had. If my memory serves me correctly, there was a cat food product called "Cat's Delite" advertised, and they used the 'wrong' spelling for the brand name.

I remember feeling how unfair it was that incorrect (quote unquote) spelling was allowed on TV which could confuse us poor little innocent children.

And so we come to Chinese.

I had lunch recently with Jimmy, a language exchange partner. I forget what we were talking about, but when wanting to use the word "communicate" (i.e. people communicating with each other), I used the word 交通 (jiāotōng) - which Jimmy was quick to point it was not the correct word.  He recommended that I should use 交流 (jiāoliú) instead.

I know there are often many synonyms for a single word, and somehow I had convinced myself that 交通 was a valid alternative for 'communications'.  I was about to accept that I must have made it up, or something, when Jimmy came up with a suggestion ... and he was right!

Yup, all over HK I see the logo for Bank of Communications, and the word 交通 appears there. In my mind I guess I had therefore connected those two words - even though in fact 交通 is more about 'traffic' than about people 'communicating' with each other.

Sigh, us poor little innocent language learners. Learner's Delite indeed.

Have u incorrectly learned words that terned out knot two bee rite?  Drop a note be low and rite a comment ...

Friday, April 11, 2014

iPhone's new annoying pinyin keyboard

My pinyin keyboard, for messaging in Chinese on my iPhone, used to look like this ...

But when I upgraded to OS7, it got really ugly and ended up looking like this ...

This new keyboard (which I subsequently found out is called the 'T10') was terrible - I was used to 'qwerty' and I wanted it back!  I looked for another pinyin keyboard in the usual place, but there were no other pinyin options available ...

     Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard ...

So I kind of gave up, thinking that this must be an Apple design choice, and that I was the one left without a choice.

Then a couple of weeks ago, while looking at my list of installed keyboards, I accidentally clicked on my pinyin keyboard  ("Chinese - Simplified,  Pinyin")  - and suddenly I was faced with several options:

At the time, '10 Key' was selected, but nothing else. I took a gamble, by turning off '10 Key' and turning on 'QWERTY' - and I got my preferred keyboard back.

I couldn't believe that I missed that in the first place - as had all the people I moaned to about this new setting, it seems. But even stranger is the fact that this appears to be Apple's default pinyin keyboard for HK & China, even though a quick search shows that most people hate it. What a strange default position for Apple.

From my perspective, however, this is now solved. I have my qwerty pinyin keyboard back, and life is beautiful.

I've written this article because it seems that there are still many people who don't realise that they aren't limited to T10 - so feel free to choose the one you want!

PS. Any of you get stuck with this damn T10, not realising you had a choice? You're welcome to leave a moan comment.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Winning imaginary arguments

I remember seeing a post on Reddit (which I have been unable to track down - let me know if you can) which was roughly as follows:  "This is a graph of how I spend my time in the shower:"

There is certainly some truth to this, and judging by the response to that original graph, there are plenty of people who do this - imagining scenarios, presenting clever arguments, and winning convincingly.

And, for people studying another language, some of those imaginary arguments end up being in Chinese. Don't pretend that you haven't done it too … you know, you imagine a scenario where you're having to deal with some difficult person who only speaks your target language, and you win while arguing in that language.

What's fun is that this imaginary arguments sometimes happen in real life (although probably not arguing with strangers in the shower  :)

Sure, you get the easy scenarios where - in real life - some Chinese person is looking confused and you end up helping them by giving directions in Mandarin.

But you also get the real arguments.

For example, last year I went to South Africa and was standing in the queue at immigrations, waiting my turn to get through. Suddenly a group of five Mandarin-speaking people tried pushing in front of me. I told them in English there was a queue and they should please go to the back - but they pretended they couldn't speak English (or maybe they actually couldn't) - but either way they just ignored me.

I got really annoyed, and started telling them - in Chinese - that there was a queue, and that everyone else is waiting, and they should go to the back of the queue. They stood there speechless. The main guy said something back in Chinese, but I didn't actually understand him - so I just repeated myself, reminding them that there is a queue.

And they backed off, and then slinked to the back of the queue.

I felt fantastic - winning an argument in real life in Chinese - in a scenario that normally would only be imagined during 95% of one's shower time. Then some of the other (non-Chinese speaking) people in the queue smiled and gave me the thumbs up.

So yes, if you're looking for a reason to study Chinese, or to study a little harder, then winning arguments like this - whether privately & imaginary during your shower, or publicly with real Chinese people - definitely makes it worth while.

Have you ever had something along these lines happen to you in Chinese?