Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Qing ni fanyi ma?

Currently Reading The Opposite of Fate Amy Tan

Major pet peeve time:
I have noticed that Chinese-American authors, whom I assume haven't studied Chinese on an academic level, but picked up bits and pieces from their Chinese-speaking relatives, make up their own transliteration system, so those of us who actually speak Chinese need to translate the transliteration. Grrrrrrr.

I can understand that the author hasn't studied Chinese, so how would they know proper transliteration methods, but surely, someone in the editing department can figure it out! If not, they should hire me.

In her essay arrival banquet Amy Tan talks about her mother teaching her cousin English.

" 'Bu-shr har!" my mother says to him. 'Don't say "har." How. How, how, how--like hau, hau, hau.' Good, good, good."

Except in the pinyin system, the first word (which translates as a general negative, in this case, "no" or "wrong") is bu-shi if you want to put a Beijing accent onto it (which you don't, because Tan's mother is Shanghainese) you can write bu-shir. And good is hao.

Further on in the essay:
"Meigwo-ren... Jyou jin-shan" (American... San Francisco)

Should be Meiguo ren... jiu jin-shan and it wasn't until she directly translated the Chinese name for San Francisco as "old gold mountain" that I realized what she meant by jyou.

The Dim Sum of All Things by Kim Wong Keltner did the same thing. A lot.

I know it's stupid, but it gets to me, which is why it's a pet peeve, no?

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