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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire was rated as the best movie in 2008 and it won so many prizes in last week's Oscar. Although I know it portrayed only the lowest class in India, I am still affected in thinking that the whole India is like that. I am being terribly rational biased, and that's not fair.

The same thing happened to Chinese movies too. There are movies showing only a small part of life. But people outside of China will have mistaken that particular life for being the norms.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why Learn French?

When reading Peter Wason talking about French language, I found it shared some similar historical path as Mandarin. The following is from Ideas:

In the eighteenth century, France was "the cultural dictator" of Europe. People looked to France as the model and standard of taste in literature, art, architecture and the ancillary arts that had blossomed and even today occupy a special position: furniture, fashion and cuisine.

French is one of the group of languages which are derived from Latin. Starting around 1549, French language was a self-conscious entity in France's intellectual and national life, in a way that other languages have never been. Throughout the seventeenth century, the language was refined and developed and purified.

This rational tidiness helps account for the language's great beauty but also for its comparative dryness and its relatively small vocabulary. Whereas other languages spread naturally, French was - to an extent - an official language, and for this reason even as late as the mid-twentieth century there were two million people in France whose mother tongue was not French (Alsatian, Breton, Provencal, etc.).

French, anyone?


Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Differences Between Beijinghua and Putonghua

Many Mandarin learners believe that Beijinghua is Putonghua. They seek teachers originally from Beijing, or they believe that they should go to Beijing to learn Putonghua.

As your humble blogger is from a small city which is 30 minutes away from Beijing, I can tell you for sure that Beijinghua is NOT Putonghua. I am in a position that I can understand Beijinghua, and sometimes fake a Beijing accent, yet at the same time, know Beijinghua is not Putonghua.

Linguistic expert pointed out that Beijinghua was heavily influenced by Manchu language. At the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, when Manchu people lived in Beijing were learning Chinese, their accent was influenced by their first language. And the result showed today is that Beijinghua is filled with massive neutrol tone words. So, if you have been learning standard Putonghua, you will find it challenging to understand Beijinghua. That is the same reason for people who learned Cantonese find it challenging to understand Haka, or people who learned Shanghaihua find it difficult to understand Ningbohua.

The second reason is that, just as any other dialects, Beijinghua is full of its very own coloquials and slangs which don't exist anywhere else. And therefore, those coloquials and slangs probably won't be understood by people who didn't grow up in Beijing area.

If you are learning Putonghua in Beijing, your putonhua will be influenced by Beijinghua. The same thing goes to if you are learning Putonghua in Guangzhou, your putonhua will be affected by Cantonese. That is the same reason why Chinese people carry their accent when they speak Putonghua. But luckily, there is a standard version of Putonghua which helps people understand each other no matter where they come from.