In the movie Red, Bruce Willis speaks a line of Chinese, but I couldn’t figure out what it was (the subtitles in the YouTube clip below don’t seem to match with what he’s saying and the DVD I watched didn’t include anything for this line in the subtitles). After listening a bunch of times, I thought he might be saying 几年前我住 / 幾年前我住 … If that’s right the rest should be 在 somewhere, but it doesn’t sound like 在 and the place doesn’t sound like anything obvious like 中国 / 中國 or 香港. The line comes in the context of a surprising reference to the Harvard Yenching Classification System (for cataloging library books). I was sorry that the characters did not actually go to the Harvard Yenching Library, but I do not believe filming is allowed there in any case. Update: 谢谢 to commenter Tima for clarifying that the place where Bruce Willis’ character said he lived was 武汉 / 武漢 … [read more]
Those of you who follow @zhongwebchinese on Twitter may have seen our Chinese New Year tweet, which included a link to a YouTube clip of Homer Simpson saying 恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 gōngxǐ fācái. I just saw another Simpsons episode with a bit of Chinese, this time a visual. While Lenny is singing the song “Thank You for Being a Friend,” the word for “friend” in a number of languages appears on a screen behind him. One of the words is 友 yǒu as in 朋友 péngyou. Read on to view the whole clip (although there’s not really more to see than in the pic), and the 恭喜发财 clip, if you missed the tweet. Pages: 1 2
Mentioned in a couple of Tweets a while ago, the BBC series Sherlock uses “Hangzhou” numerals (a nearly-obsolete Chinese system of writing numbers) as a key plot point in the episode “The Blind Banker.” These are more properly called “Suzhou” numerals. You can read all about them, including about the naming issue, on Wikipedia. Although I found the series enjoyable generally, it wasn’t particularly culturally sensitive to the Chinese in that episode. “The Blind Banker” – Sherlock: Series 1 on iTunes Sherlock: Series 1 on iTunes
American Born Chinese is an award-winning graphic novel by Gene Yuan Yang with three storylines: one about an ABC boy who moves from San Francisco to an area where he is virtually the only Asian; another about an American teenager tries to distance himself from a distant cousin who is a grotesque Asian caricature. The third story is a retelling of the legend of the Monkey King. Journey to the West is one of the four classic novels, so American Born Chinese is an interesting exposure to that. There are also bits of Chinese in the text, as you can see in both the downloadable wallpapers. Teachers can find a lesson plan for the book provided by the publisher. I found the book very clever, wonderfully drawn, and funny in a rather painful way. I would recommend it for ages 12 and up.
Three Delivery is an American cartoon for older children (rated Y7) set in an American Chinatown. It features three teenagers who have been taught kung fu by their adoptive grandmother so that they can re-assemble a magical cookbook and protect it from their grandmother’s former friend, now turned evil nemesis. The show does not overtly try to teach Chinese, but the characters do say the occasional word or phrase and you can pick up a bit by watching it. For example, an older brother frequently addresses his younger sister as 妹妹 mèimèi. There are also a good number of signs and things written with traditional characters. The plots also tend to involve items of cultural significance, such as terra-cotta warriors (兵马俑 / 兵馬俑 bīngmǎyǒng). The show has a nice website (unfortunately, Flash-based) that incorporates a lot of written Chinese; for example during the inevitable wait for the Flash to load, we get … [read more]