Monday, August 25, 2008

Difference in pronunciation between "fond" and "found"

It's better to listen to a good speaker. I think most Chinese have problems with "ou" in "found" or "ow" in "town". If you slowly pronounce "found" as f-a-u-n-d, it will be good. Instead, many Chinese pronounce "found" and "fond" as (I think) f-a-n-g-d. "Fond" is really f-o-n-d, where "n" is not "ng", and "o" is that in "dog".

"up to now" and "up till now"

> up till now一般是和现在完成时搭配的,表示个时间一直持续到现在。
> Until now, doctors have/had been able to do very little to treat
> this disease.

Generally, "up to now" is different from "up till [or until] now". When you have the word "till" or "until" in a negative sentence, it implies that something did not happen before that point in time BUT IT DID HAPPEN AT THAT TIME! The above sentence you gave means that the doctors now ARE ABLE TO do something significant to treat this disease. "up to now" may or may not have that implication or side effect. It's much less used. In fact, I always say "until [till] now" to HAVE that side effect and "so far" to AVOID that.

Answers.com and thefreedictionary.com claim that "up to now" can only be used in negative sentences (see e.g. www.thefreedictionary.com/up+to+now). That may be just grammarians' summary. You can see people's usage by searching on Google for this phrase (wrap the three words in double quotes), and ignore the cases where the phrase "be up to" is meant.

The implied state of change by "until" or "till" in English probably does not exist in other languages, such as Chinese, and possibly French, Spanish, or German (e.g. "Les restructurations ne se traduisent pas jusqu'ici dans les inscriptions à Pôle emploi", literally meaning "So far the restructuring does not result in enrollment at the employment center", and Google translator uses the phrase "so far" for "jusqu'ic").

Monday, August 18, 2008

Translation of "班长"

[quote]原帖由 lavender0914 于 2008-8-19 09:22 发表
I hope our monitor is all right now. 我希望班长已经一切正常。[/quote]

I vaguely remember the translation of "班长" to "monitor" in some Chinese-English dictionary. That's misleading, to put it nicely. I know exactly what a 班长 is. In case anybody had a chance to watch the American TV series produced by PBS (Public Broadcast Station) a few days ago, the interview with a Chinese 班长 student used the term "class president". I think that's a fair translation, although it can only be understood by American audience based on the context, because there's no such role among the students in the US.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Off-topic: Post a message and sign with real name

>> ...
>> Yong Huang

> 楼上每次发帖子都要署名累不累?

It's actually a well established etiquette on the Internet, or Netiquette as some call it. Chinese forums are different for some reason, probably because most members are younger. But if you post questions to a forum non-Chinese participate in, lack of a name at the end is not polite. See
http://www.freelists.org/archives/oracle-l/10-2007/msg00470.html
---begin quote---
By the way, please note that many people on this list usually do not respond
to questions posted by anonymous parties. Myself included. In the future,
if you want help, please have the good manners to identify yourself. At
least be good enough to provide a name more meaningful than "anysql".
---end quote---

(The user anysql is my Chinese friend doing Oracle DBA work in Shanghai. He's a good guy by the way.)

Some people use forum signature to automatically sign at the end to save typing. You can do so too.

"Comp time"

----- BEGIN QUOTE -----
If you need to work six hours on a Saturday to deploy a software update to avoid downtime during business hours, you get, There’s no comp time for that since you’re on salary.That’s why we pay you the big bucks!”

请问这就话里的There’s no comp time for that since you’re on salary.是什么意思? 我感觉像是不给加班费的意思,请高人指点
----- END QUOTE -----

In the US, "comp time" means compensation time, not overtime pay or 加班费. Instead, the company allows you to take some time off to compensate for your extra working hours.

与老外交流最不该说的八句话 (Taboos when talking to non-Chinese)

----- BEGIN QUOTE -----
一戒:不问年龄。西方人的年龄是保密的。特别是24岁以后绝不会谈论自己的年龄。   二戒:不问财物。一个人的收入和随身所戴的财物都与个人的能力、地位、脸面等有 关。   三戒:不问婚姻。这属于个人隐私。让一位老大不小的外宾交待自己尚未婚配并不是件愉快的事情。   四戒:不问住址。西方人认为给人留下住址,就得请对方到家作客。西方人是不喜欢 随便请人到家里作客的。   五戒:不问经历。这是对方的“老底”,也是商业秘密,西方人是不会轻易让人摸 到自己的底牌的。外宾认为这是不友好的盘问,是干涉别人的私生活。   六戒:不问信仰。政治见解和宗教信仰都是非常严肃的。   七戒:不问行踪。   八戒:不问吃饭
----- END QUOTE -----

Westerners are not all equal. Europeans are more private. Americans are more open, especially southerners. The first two rules are correct regardless, even for young generation Chinese nowadays. But the third is not quite right. It's OK to ask "You have kids?" Not quite the same as "Are you married?" but close, although Americans may be single Moms or Dads at a higher probability than Chinese. Asking "Are you married?" sounds strange. You can ask "You have family?" That's acceptable. The fourth is very wrong. It's perfectly OK to ask "Where do you live?" or if you know he stays in a hotel, "Where do you stay?" The fifth is wrong too. You can ask "Where were you before you joined [your company name]?" or "What were you doing before you ...?" Just don't keep asking too much unless he's interviewing for a job. The rest of the rules are probably OK. Again, my observation is from an American's perspective. Europeans could be different.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Skill to explain things in different ways

> 如果已经学会界定,但理解还有偏差,那就要训练How
> to explain things in different ways(用不同的方式解释同
> 一事物)。一种表达式对方不懂,美国人会寻找另一种表
> 达式最终让对方明白。

That's an excellent point. A few years ago, I read on a Chinese forum where somebody said all he needed to be good at English was vocabulary, meaning once he knows a lot of words, his English will be super. I said that's far from true. Suppose a person knows only 1000 words (which may be true to some undereducated people). And suppose he doesn't know the word "engine". He may say "My car broke. It's the thing that drives the wheels through some belts. I forget what it's called." Then you know it's the word "engine". Well, this may be a bad example because most undereducated people probably know even more about cars than some educated ones. But the idea is that a guy with limited vocabulary can communicate well as long as he can "explain things in different ways". And that's the skill many Chinese that are studying English do not have.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Challenging English paragraph

Question:

I am suffering my first, sever attack of nostalgia, or tesknota - a word that adds to nostalgia the tonalities of sadness and longing. It is a feeling whose shades and degrees I'm destined to know intimately, but at this hovering moment, it comes upon me like a visitation from a whole new geography of emotions, an annunciation of how an absence can hurt.
这里的shades and degrees什么意思??谢谢!

那么这道题,高手们看看应该选什 么,及为什么。 谢谢各位了
By describing her feelings as having "shades and degrees", the author suggests that
(a) she is allowing herself to gieve only a little at a time
(b) she is numb to the pain of her grief
(c) she is overwhelmed by her emotions
(d) her sadness is greatest at night
(e) her emotional state is multifaceted

Answer:

It took me a couple of readings to realize why answer E is correct. First, the author is clear in saying she's very nostalgic, thinking of her home or past time very much ("severe attack of nostalgia"; note the spelling of the word "severe"). So answers A and B can't be right. Then you read the words "sadness and longing" as tonalities; think of hue to color, or MSG to Chinese food, if you wish. She's describing these tonalities or related feelings aside from the main feeling, nostagia, as "shades and degrees" of the main feeling. Isn't it clear that it's a multifaceted feeling?

Friday, August 1, 2008

"Romantic" vs "浪漫"

More than once I heard that some Chinese students coming to the US said the word "romantic" and caused confusion to Americans. For instance, when he (she) found a beautiful view and uttered "How romantic!", an American would ask, "Why? There's no boy or girl falling in love in this scene." It seems that in America, the word "romantic" strictly means "displaying or expressing love or strong affection". Last night I was watching Jane Austin's "Sense and Sensibility" on TV. When the Dashwood family moved to the seaside cottage, the lady praised the view with the word "romantic". So the British, at least back then, did not have the restriction on this word. In fact, dictionary.com lists 8 meanings, and about half of them are not related to love. If it was restricted, the word "romanticism" in arts would be hard to understand.