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Living Chinese Symbols homepage : Learning Chinese Language; Living Chinese Lifestyle Blog : October 2005

October 4, 2005 14:35 - If God had taught man a language, that language would have been Chinese.

The Business Standard in India, published an interesting article of a businessman learning Mandarin in Beijing.

Here's an excerpt:

Though Chinese is a difficult language to learn, it is not without its advantages. It has great economy of words, coupled with tremendous expressive power and simplicity of grammar. Indeed, the great mathematician Leibnitz remarked: ¡°If God had taught man a language, that language would have been Chinese.¡±

Modern neurological research reveals that reading the ideographic Chinese script stimulates the right side of the brain, whilst speech functions are localised on the left, thus promoting more productive and holistic use of the brain. And history shows that language closely follows economic power.

Witness the replacement of Greek by Latin in the Mediterranean, the later supremacy of French as the language of diplomacy and power, and the rise of English corresponding to the American century of the past hundred years.

And China is certainly the leading superpower candidate for the future.

Even with all this, it is difficult to see Chinese outpacing English on the world stage. The numbers vastly favour English, and it is still uncertain whether future advances in Internet technology will speed up the present relatively cumbersome method of writing Chinese.

Still, as the Chinese say in their characteristically understated manner, the contest should lead to interesting times.

To read more, go here

October 14, 2005 15:54 - Anyone up for some ancient Chinese noodles?

So it seems, the Chinese did invent noodles...

Chinese Noodles Predate Marco Polo

It's not often that explorer (and travel writer) Marco Polo makes the news these days, so we couldn't pass up the chance to mention it here. It seems that Mr. Polo was not responsible for introducing the noodle to China, as some historians have contended. In northwestern China, scientists have discovered a container with 4,000-year-old, delicate yellow noodles. (And you thought the leftover macaroni in your fridge was stale.)

Reports the Los Angeles Times: "The easily recognizable noodles are far older than any that have previously beeen discovered and predate the first written mention of noodles by at least 2,000 years..." Chef Martin Yan told the paper, "This find definitely proves that the Chinese were making noodles way before the Italian Marco Polo came." Anyone who has ever eaten handmade Chinese noodles¡ªfresh ones, that is¡ªshouldn¡¯t be too surprised. The delicious, chewy noodles rival anything you"ll find in Italy and must have taken more than a few years to perfect.

On a side note, there"s nothing like an ancient noodle discovery to get the headline writers excited. Here's a groan-inducing sampling: "Neolithic Chinese Used Their Noodles" (Los Angeles Times); "Noodle find a blast from the pasta" (The Sydney Morning Herald); "Oodles of old noodles found in China" (USA Today); and "Pasta its prime: 4,000 year-old noodles found" (The Globe and Mail).

by Jim Benning


October 17, 2005 18:40 - Latest in U.S Schools offering Chinese Classes

Classes in Chinese Grow as the Language Rides a Wave of Popularity

CHICAGO, Oct. 14 - The future of foreign language study in the United States might be glimpsed here at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School, in a classroom where lanterns with cherry blossoms and pandas dangle overhead, and a paper dragon, an American flag and a Chinese flag hang from the wall.

One recent morning, a class of third graders bowed to one another and introduced themselves in Chinese, and a class of fourth graders practiced writing numbers in Chinese characters on marker boards. Chinese classes began at Alcott in February, but more students are already choosing it over Spanish.

"Chinese is our new baby," said David J. Domovic, the principal at Alcott, on the North Side, one of 20 public schools in the city offering instruction in Mandarin. "Everybody just wants in."

With encouragement from the Chinese and American governments, schools across the United States are expanding their language offerings to include Chinese, the world's most spoken tongue, not to mention one of its most difficult to learn.

Last month, the Defense Department gave a $700,000 grant to public schools in Portland, Ore., to double the number of students studying Chinese in an immersion program. In May, Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, and Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, introduced a bill to spend $1.3 billon over five years on Chinese language programs in schools and on cultural exchanges to improve ties between the United States and China. The bill has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

After 2,400 schools expressed interest, Advanced Placement Chinese classes will be offered in high schools around the country starting next year. Beijing is paying for half the $1.35 million to develop the classes, including Chinese teachers' scholarships and developing curriculums and examinations, said Trevor Packer, executive director of the Advanced Placement Program at the College Board.

"Many Americans are beginning to realize the importance of speaking Chinese," Zhu Hongqing, consul at the Chinese Education Consulate here, said. "We need to provide as much powerful support as we can."

The number of Chinese language programs around the country, from elementary school through adult programs, has tripled in 10 years, said Scott McGinnis, an academic adviser at the Defense Language Institute in Washington.

"Chinese is strategic in a way that a lot of other languages aren't," because of China's growth as an economic and military force, Mr. McGinnis said.

"Whatever tensions lie between us, there is a historical longstanding mutual fascination with each other," he said. "Planning to be ready to engage with them rather than only thinking of them in terms of a challenge or a competitor is the smart thing to do."

Up to 50,000 students are studying Chinese in elementary and secondary schools in the United States, experts estimate. Many are in cities like New York and San Francisco that have large numbers of Chinese-American students, and many take lessons after school or on weekends.

The Chicago program stands out because it is entirely in public schools during the regular school day and primarily serves students who are not of Chinese descent.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, a vocal supporter of the program, said proficiency in Chinese would be critical in understanding the competition.

"I think there will be two languages in this world," Mr. Daley said. "There will be Chinese and English."

From an all-black elementary school on the West Side to a nearly all-Hispanic elementary school on the South Side to more diverse schools throughout the city, some 3,000 students from kindergarten through high school are learning Chinese. The Chinese Education Ministry has called the program a model for teaching students who are not of Chinese descent. The ministry donated 3,000 textbooks to the school system last year.

The program has expanded from three schools in 1999 to 20 this year and is scheduled to add five by the end of the school year.

"They have a great international experience right in their own classroom," said Robert Davis, manager of the district's Chicago Chinese Connections Program, which seeks to develop skills to help students compete in the world marketplace. "We want them to meet on an equal playing field."

Some parents here worry at first about how relevant the Chinese classes are and whether they will be too difficult. The Foreign Service Institute, which trains American diplomats, ranks Chinese as one of the four most time-intensive languages to learn. An average English speaker takes 1,320 hours to become proficient in Chinese, compared with 480 hours in French, Spanish or Italian, the institute says.

Sevtap Guldur, 31, said she and her daughter Sahire, a fourth grader at Alcott, looked over the unfamiliar Chinese characters before deciding whether to take the class.

"If you're ready to learn that, go for it," Ms. Guldur said she told her daughter.

Sahire, who is fluent in Turkish, said it was her favorite class.

At Alcott, 160 students from kindergarten to fifth grade are studying Spanish, compared with 242 taking Chinese, although not without occasional frustration.

"Do we have to do it in Chinese?" a third grader asked during a recent exercise, perhaps missing the point of the class.

Raul Freire, 9, a fourth grader fluent in Spanish, said he taught words to his mother so she could better communicate with Chinese-speaking customers at the bank where she works.

"Mostly everybody in the school wants to take Chinese," Raul said. "I think about being a traveler when I grow up, so I have to learn as many languages as I can."

Adriana Freire, 33, Raul's mother, who is from Ecuador, said the skills would help her son be a better competitor in the job market. "I never thought that he was going to be able to do something like that," Ms. Freire said.

Most of the 10 elementary and 10 high schools in the program here offer the language four times a week for 40 minutes a day. Each school decides how to fit the class in the school day, with some taking time from classes like physical education, music and art to make room.

Chicago has a waiting list of schools that want to offer Chinese. The main obstacle is a lack of teachers certified by an American college, a requirement of the No Child Left Behind law, Mr. Davis said.

"It's hard when we can't hire a teacher that is qualified because of that missing certification," he said.

The shortage of teachers is common throughout the United States, said Michael Levine, executive director of education at the Asia Society in New York.

Six states have signed or plan to sign agreements with the Chinese government to import teachers from China and send teachers from the United States to China for training, Mr. Levine said.

"Eventually," he said, "we're going to have to homegrow our own."

October 19, 2005 23:19 - Passing of A Chinese Legend

This week, while the media in China is celebrating the successful manned space flight of Shen Zhou 6, a great Chinese writer passed away quietly here in Shanghai.

I read Ba Jin's books when I was young, and watched the drama serial "Home, Spring, Autumn" based on his famous work, and have always been touched by his stories.

Author's life passes into Chinese legend
Created: 2005-10-18 CST, Updated: 2005-10-19 CST

The death of renowned writer Ba Jin ¡ª "the last giant of a whole era" ¡ª is being mourned across China and around the world. Fan Meijing looks back over the life and work of China's great "People's Writer"

On Monday evening, millions of Chinese lovers of books were saddened by the death of Ba Jin, one of China's most revered writers of the 20th century.

Ba, who died at the age of 101, drew his last breath in a ward of the Huadong Hospital in Shanghai. He had fought with malignant mesothelium cell tumor, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses for the past six years.

Although he died without a word of farewell, his enormous literary output and his spirit that have been the inspiration for generations of Chinese will go on living in the hearts of the Chinese people, now and long into the future.

"He is the last giant of a whole era, the last of all the major writers who were active in the first half of the 20th century," said famous writer Zhao Lihong. "For so many years, he's been a symbol of that era and it now passes into legend with his departure."

Born in Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Ba, whose real name is Li Yaotang, has been widely recognized as one of greatest masters of Chinese culture in modern times as well as being an outstanding publisher and editor.

He wrote and translated many books, including novels, short stories, works of prose and essays ¡ª a total of 13 million words by the end of his life.

His major works include "The Love Trilogy: Fog, Rain, Lightning" (1931-35), "The Torrent Trilogy: Family, Spring, Autumn" (1933-40), "A Dream of Sea" and "Autumn in Spring," all of which were viewed as landmarks in modern Chinese culture.

He chose the pen name "Ba Jin" in memory of Baranpo, one of his schoolmates in France in the 1920s who committed suicide because he had come to detest the world and its ways. "Jin" was proposed by a Russian schoolmate who was studying philosophy.

Ba was born on November 25, 1904, into the family of an important Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) official and received a good education from private tutors. He grew up to be a high-spirited youth who rebelled against the constraints of life in a family living in a feudal society. At the age of 19, he moved to Shanghai, and then to Nanjing, now the capital of neighboring Jiangsu Province.

In 1926, he went to study in France and lived at a small inn where he felt the pangs of love and sadness, hope and desperation. There he wrote his first novel, "Mie Wang" ("Destruction"), which explored the soul of an intellectual eager to overturn a corrupt world but who can't find the right way to do it.

"Even in my dreams I never thought that I would become a novelist," Ba once said. "I started writing for my own self-salvation."

Later, he completed "The Torrent Trilogy," his most celebrated anti-feudal work. The three novels came from his early life in a feudal family and convey to the reader the strong emotions of love and hatred.

"I've been reading Ba's books since I was very young. His words are always inspiring and deserve respect," said Zhou Weizhi, president of the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles. "Ba spoke out for truth from the beginning to the end and we will always be inspired by the power of his personality."

In 1978, Ba published another important work, the 1.5 million-word "Suixiang Lu" ("Random Thoughts") in which he wrote about his past life and experiences.

In all his writings, Ba displayed his concern not only for the nation's past but for its future as well.

In 1985, several students in Wuxi in Jiangsu Province wrote to Ba of their puzzlement about the modern world. They said that society tended to make "money" its primary goal and they found this depressing. They described themselves as "lost lambs."

Ba, then sick in bed, spent three weeks writing a 3,000-word reply to the students in which he discussed the meaning and essence of idealism. He loved children all his life.

"I have always yearned to see pure, young souls and I will never forget them all my life," he once said.

Zhao Changtian, vice president of Shanghai Writers' Association, said what impressed him most about Ba was his dedication to writing.

"He was still writing when he was in his 90s and every word put down on paper was by his own hand," he recalled. "Even during his final years when he was suffering from Parkinson's disease and he had difficulty in moving, he persisted in writing by hand."

In his works, Ba again and again put forward his plea that "life should be allowed to blossom."

"People ask me what's the meaning of the phrase and I tell them: 'Man lives not just to eat but to add some color to society. Only when man devotes his life to helping others, will it be in full blossom'," he said. "My hope is simple ¡ª to open my heart to my readers and to serve them."

In 2003, the State Council awarded Ba the title of "People's Writer."

Ba met his wife Xiao Shan in 1936 when he was 32. She died from cancer in 1972.

Xiao was an admirer of Ba who already was an established figure in literary circles at that time. They met after she wrote a letter to him and they kept up a correspondence for several months in which they shared their ideas about literature and life.

Eight years after their first meeting Ba proposed and they were married in 1944.

After Xiao's death, Ba insisted on keeping the urn containing her ashes beside him, at first in his bedroom and then in his hospital ward after his admission in 1999.

"I like to see the container in my bedroom," Ba told anyone who tried to persuade him to bury Xiao's ashes. "It makes me feel like she's always at my side."

Ba is survived by a daughter, Li Xiaolin, and a son, Li Xiaotang.

Published on ShanghaiDaily.com (http://www.shanghaidaily.com/)
http://www.shanghaidaily.com/art/2005/10/18/205216/Author's life passes into Chinese legend.htm

October 21, 2005 18:57 - East does not meet West in Disneyland China

It'll be interesting to see how well Chinese people take to the new Disneyland in Hong Kong. It's been criticized for being too small and not having enough of a "Chinese touch".

Japanese animation is very big in China. Seems like Mickey Mouse is a bit outdated for Chinese kids these days. But then again I may be wrong.

A bit of East, a lot of West in Hong Kong Disneyland

By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY
HONG KONG ¡ª Before opening its theme park here on the south China coast, Disney consulted a feng shui master, worked lucky Chinese numbers into the design and added dim sum and other regional dishes to its menus.

But the Asian touches aren't immediately apparent in the finished product: Hong Kong Disneyland is more Disney than Hong Kong.

Set aside the signs in Chinese (and English) and some Asian food offerings, and the park is basically a pint-sized version of what you get in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo and Paris. There's Main Street U.S.A., Space Mountain, Sleeping Beauty Castle and people walking around dressed as Disney characters such as Goofy and Alice in Wonderland.

"Just a lot of Chinese people, no Chinese culture," summarizes Phil Chen, 28, a salesman visiting Hong Kong Disneyland from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

The $1.8 billion park opened Sept. 12 to considerable fanfare. Six years in the making, Hong Kong Disneyland is supposed to draw tourists from across Asia and compensate for a shortage of kid attractions in a city better known for designer shopping on neon-lit Nathan Road and hedonistic clubbing in Wan Chai and Lan Kwai Fong.

So the park, owned 57% by the Hong Kong government and 43% by Disney, went up on Lantau Island, a half-hour by train from downtown Hong Kong. Now, after disembarking from special trains outfitted with Mickey Mouse-shaped windows, the children of Hong Kong can line up to ride the Space Mountain roller coaster or to zap rogue robots in the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters game-and-ride.

"We had a really good time," says Teresa Chan, 42, as she leaves the park with her 3-year-old daughter, Shaylin. "It would be my dream if I were a kid." But she says the park is missing the "Chinese touch" and wishes the Disney designers had added a "Chinaland" to Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

Then again, nurse Eunice Chu, 23, has no complaints: "We already have local culture in other places."

Disney portrays the park as an East-meets-West production. The entertainment goliath followed the advice of a feng shui specialist to improve the flow of qi, or natural energy, and put the park in harmony with its surroundings. Disney positioned the park's hotels to the northeast of the water, for instance, to "ensure prosperity." The main ballroom in the resort's convention center was designed to be 888 square meters (8 is a lucky number to the Chinese). By contrast, the resort hotels have no fourth floor; the numeral 4 signifies death.

Hong Kong Disneyland's eight restaurants offer a variety of Asian foods, including roast pork, dim sum and laksa, a curry noodle soup from Southeast Asia.

Disney expects to attract visitors from Hong Kong itself, mainland China and elsewhere in Asia. Spokeswoman Esther Wong characterizes attendance as "strong" but won't provide figures. On a recent weekday visit, the good-natured crowds are modest, and the lines for the attractions are short.

Hong Kong Disneyland has recruited staff members who can speak English, Cantonese (spoken in Hong Kong and southern China) and Mandarin (spoken elsewhere in China). Signs appear in English, in the traditional Chinese characters used in Hong Kong and Taiwan and in the simplified Chinese characters used in mainland China.

A trip to Disney is expensive, at least by the standards of mainland China, where the per-capita annual income for urban residents is less than $1,200. The park's entrance fee on weekends is $45 for adults and $32 for children.

But the most common complaint is the size of the park: At 310 acres, Hong Kong Disneyland is the smallest of Disney's five locations around the world. The next smallest, Tokyo Disney Resort, which opened in 1983 and has grown since then, covers 494 acres, including both Tokyo Disneyland Park and Tokyo Disney Sea.

Hong Kong Disneyland is scheduled to expand, too. Looking over the grounds, Teresa Chan declares: "It's a start."

October 24, 2005 22:29 - Learning Chinese in Grand Forks


MARILYN HAGERTY COLUMN: Chinese is spoken in GF

Move over, Norwegians.

The Chinese have arrived in Grand Forks!

While they probably will never outnumber people with roots in Norway, they have established the Grand Forks Chinese School. And on Saturday and Sunday, children with Chinese background, and several without, attend Chinese classes.

The children are learning to read and write some of the characters for Mandarin, the official language of China. They sing songs in Chinese and play Chinese games. Classes run from 10 a.m. until noon and from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in Gamble Hall on the campus of UND.

Parents of the children want them to know of their cultural heritage as they grow up. They want their children to be able to converse with their relatives in Hong Kong and China. And if it seems like a lot of schooling, they seem to enjoy working and learning. Luke Huang, a professor of technology in the School of Business, says, "Some day they will thank us for it."

And he believes that Chinese language will become more important in the years ahead with the emerging prominence in world economics.

Huang was the founder of the Grand Forks Chinese School five years ago. He came to Grand Forks from Quangzhou, north of Hong Kong. His 10-year-old daughter, Mandy, played a violin solo at a program presented last Sunday at the Grand Forks Public Library. He thinks the children should take advantage of the school so they can continue to be bilingual by having conversations with others in Grand Forks.

Last Sunday, along with the program, there was a display of Chinese books in the children's department of the Grand Forks Library. Books included "The Moon Lady" by Amy Tan. There was Chinese art and the Chinese Zodiac. Another book told how to make and fly Chinese kites, and still another was on Hong Kong.

There were a few children and one class in Chinese when the school started. Then five American students joined in the study. A parents' meeting was held two years ago to formalize the Chinese School and elect Professor Huang as the founding principal.

The group of parents credits Huang with strong leadership. He searched out appropriate textbooks, found classrooms and hired teachers. Parents pitched in to help with school activities. Each year, there are more Chinese children enrolled and more American children wanting to learn Chinese. There were 17 students at the end of May. There are 23 students this fall.

May Fuka was recently elected by the parents as new principal of the school to continue Huang's work. She is the wife of Grand Forks police officer Rick Fuka and mother of Matthew, 13, and Megan, 7. Right now, the teachers are Tong Yi, Ruihui Liu and Kathleen Peng. Others who have taught are Grace Zhou, Jim Qian, Fang Fang and Lei Ding.

The school draws from the Chinese community, mainly on the UND campus. This year, there are 30 Chinese students enrolled at UND along with others who are faculty and staff members. And UND has started a class in Mandarin in conjunction with the business and public administration departments.

The Chinese harvest moon festival was celebrated recently. The Chinese new year will call for another group celebration.

As principal, May Fuka will oversee the operation of Grand Forks Chinese School half way around the world from her childhood home in Hong Kong. She came to the United States and enrolled at Minnesota State University-Moorhead because she wanted to learn better English and she relished the adventure of a new land. There she met Rick Fuka, originally from Lidgerwood, N.D. They were married and moved to Grand Forks.

After Matthew was born 13 years ago in Hong Kong, May took him back to visit her family every year. After Megan was born seven years ago, the trips become less frequent. The cost of travel has gone up and it's harder to get back to Hong Kong, she says. So she raises her family in Grand Forks, often making stir fry meals and sometimes feeling hungry for fish ball and won ton noodles. Sometimes she goes to Winnipeg where she finds ingredients for cooking in China Town there. And while she is there, she takes advantage of dim sum served in some Chinese restaurants.

Along with the school, May Fuka and her family like to join in when Chinese and American students play basketball, badminton and other sports between 2:30 and 6 p.m. on Saturdays at UND Hyslop Sports Center.

May Fuka can be reached at (701) 775-1123 or by e-mail at mayfukagf@yahoo.com.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gfherald.com or telephone 772-1055.

October 27, 2005 17:14 - Want to study Chinese? Join the crowd

Nowadays studying Chinese is becoming the "in" thing. English is the world's dominant language for business and culture, but with China's ascendance more and more people around the globe are taking up the challenge of learning to speak and read Chinese.

China's government is encouraging that enthusiasm through its Confucius Institutes for learning Chinese. Naming the schools after the sixth century B.C. sage disassociates them from Communist Party rule in China's one-party state. Confucianism, which espouses good governance and moral behavior, still underlies Chinese culture.

The first Confucius Institute was inaugurated in Seoul, South Korea, last November. Since then, the institutes have opened in cities such as Stockholm, Sweden; Perth, Australia; Nairobi, Kenya; and at the University of Maryland in College Park, just outside Washington.

The institutes, often within local universities, are modeled after the worldwide language programs of other countries, such as the British Council, Germany's Goethe Institutes, the Alliance Francaise and the Cervantes Institute of Spain.

Even in countries with no Confucius Institutes, such as Indonesia, private schools that teach Chinese flourish, and still can't meet the demand.

"The people think that if they can learn Chinese, they will have better chances with the boss," said Eric Pangkey, the manager of one of five branches of the Chinese Education Center, a private school that he said had seen enrollment double to 2,000 in a year.

Young university graduates in Southeast Asia, many of whom already speak English, often are choosing to polish their Chinese.

"Most of my friends, after they finish their degrees in Malaysia, are going to Beijing to learn Mandarin (the official Chinese dialect). It's getting more important for business," said Christine Rudi, who just graduated with a marketing degree in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital.

The number of foreign students studying in China soared from 78,000 in 2003 to 110,800 in 2004, surpassing the flow of Chinese students to foreign universities.

The rage to learn Chinese, a language spoken by nearly a quarter of humanity, still doesn't match the dominance of English as the world's language. One billion people worldwide are thought to be non-native students of English, a language that permeates international business, diplomacy and culture. Estimates of the number of people who study Chinese worldwide range from 20 million to 30 million, many of them Chinese descendants in Southeast Asia.

Yet the numbers don't convey the urgency that many people feel to learn Chinese or the inroads that Chinese has made. Its usage is spreading wildly in the digital world. Within a decade, Chinese may overtake English as the most used language on the Internet. Chinese is now the third most spoken language in Canada, after English and French.

In the United States, some 2 million of the nation's 290 million people speak Chinese, more than four-fifths of them of Chinese descent.

Interest is surging, though, and school administrators are responding. Barely 200 public schools in the United States offer Chinese. But when the New York-based College Board surveyed schools on interest in offering Chinese, 2,400 replied that they wanted such classes, said Wang Luxin, a director of China's National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language.

Nowhere is the interest more evident than in Chicago, where 20 public schools now offer Chinese, and 10 more may be added next year. China supplies texts and partially funds the program.

(JAKARTA, Indonesia )

Posted on Wed, Oct. 26, 2005

By Tim Johnson
Knight Ridder Newspapers

September 2005 «  » November 2005


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