Feb 072011
This is a very entertaining parody of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” made by the Hui Zheng lab. They actually sing a few lines of Chinese in the video (at about the 3:50 mark). The lines (which are a translation of the previous few English lines in the song) are:
我要工作。wǒ yào gōngzuò.
我也要自由。wǒ yě yào zìyóu.
我要工作。wǒ yào gōngzuò.
但我没有学位。/ 但我沒有學位。dàn wǒ méiyǒu xuéwèi. 

Thanks to a good friend who does medical research for sending me the link to this video.
Warning: some mild profanity.

You probably saw the test tubes labeled with Chinese characters at about the 2:35 mark. Look more closely at those in the image below. Can you read what they say?
Test tube caps from Bad Project video
Jan 262011

A big problem I’ve had in learning Chinese is that after a couple of years of study, it’s still really hard to read anything outside of textbooks. So I was really happy to find the “Chinese Breeze” series of little illustrated novellas with audio CDs. What makes these great for people in the relatively early stages of study is that the books use a limited amount of vocabulary and define in footnotes any words not in that set of vocabulary. The easiest books in the series assume a knowledge of 300 common words. The next level assumes 500. This seems to me to correspond roughly to what one would get in the first and second semesters of a college course. I tried a few of the 500-word ones and could read them pretty easily with my 1.5 semesters of continuing education study; sometimes I also knew the words defined in … [read more]

Dec 222010

 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

Dec 092010
神奇树房 Magic Tree House

The Magic Tree House (神奇树房 / 神奇樹房 shénqí shù fáng) book series for children has been published in bilingual editions (English text at back of book) by Hubei Children’s Press. I picked up a copy of number 13 at a conference in the US. I love how the English title is Vacation under the Volcano but the Chinese title is 古城末日 Gǔchéng mòrì, literally Ancient City Doomsday.” This one will not teach you anything about Chinese culture, but rather a bit about ancient Roman culture (the volcano is Mt. Vesuvius). I wanted no. 14 Day of the Dragon King, which is about a Chinese myth, but it wasn’t available at the time. Bilingual editions of the Magic Tree House Books are available in the US from ChinaSprout. The simplified character versions do not have pinyin. ChinaSprout says the traditional character editions have zhuyin (they seem to be from a different publisher). … [read more]

Dec 012010

 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.