Four Miles of Sparrows

Nov 06, 2013 at 18:54 | Posted in Travel 旅游 | Leave a comment

November 6, 2013
By Adam White

This morning driving to work at 06:30 AM, I saw four miles of sparrows.

The birds are in a column as wide as the highway, chirping and weaving along above the road. The trees covering the highway have dropped all their leaves. The morning air is cold and the early winter sky is grey. Suddenly I first notice along the horizon, a one-mile long, dark line above the highway. I saw the moving line is actually created with millions of dark, flying dots—countless sparrows along the highway. When I came over the hill, I could then see the northern side; a two-mile long line of busy sparrows flying to the north.

I turned south on the road, and continued to drive underneath them. I drove for another mile to the office, and once I got to the parking lot entrance, I saw there was still another mile to the south of more small birds. All in one long continuous dotted line, moving and weaving.

The line was longer than four miles, but I couldn’t see where it began and I couldn’t see it’s ending. Just thousands of birds fly north. Strangely, I don’t know why they are flying north in the winter when they are supposed to be going south. When I got out of the car, the parade continued overhead. The air filled with chirping and the fluttering of wings.

The road is from Kennett Square, PA, to Elkton, MD, straighter than our hillside road in California, but in a forest that is leafless by now, in the early winter.

(This page’s link is
Copyright 2013 Adam White

A Chinese Novel about Chinese Fighter Pilots; Three Observations (3)

Jul 26, 2011 at 13:52 | Posted in Chinese Culture 中华文化 | Leave a comment
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No Personal Marking on Fighter’s Jets in the Chinese Air Force
July 26, 2011
By Song White

I thought personalization would have nothing to do with the military. But I learned there are personal markings on fighter’s jets in the U.S. after visiting several air museums with Adam. In the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Arizona, I saw the word “Ahaulin” and the image of a donkey with a signature of Bruce ’51’; I noticed a red face design with the words Miss Flugg’n Lace on the Lt. H.N. Madison’s jet; and I found two black and white dices on Cap’t Billy’s jet. Furthermore, Adam pointed out the many jets being marked with different counts of icons that represent the enemy’s jets shot down by the pilot. To me, it’s like reading another story by looking at those American fighter jets. In the novel Flying with You, there is absolutely no personalized appearance on any Chinese jets. That’s my third observation.

Ahaulin and a donkey with a signature of Bruce 51, nose art found at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Arizona.

Ahaulin and a donkey with a signature of Bruce 51, nose art found at Planes of Fame Air Museum, Arizona.

Miss Flugg’n Lace on the Lt. H.N. Madison’s jet, nose art found at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Arizona.

Miss Flugg’n Lace on the Lt. H.N. Madison’s jet, nose art found at Planes of Fame Air Museum, Arizona.

Cap’t Billy’s dices, nose art found at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Arizona.

Cap’t Billy’s dices, nose art found at the Planes of Fame Air Museum, Arizona.

Tail Art? Fighter Jet in Moffett Field, California.

Tail Art? Fighter Jet in Moffett Field, California.

The third observation: Chinese pilots don’t seem to have their personal marking on their jets.

Flying with You is about the love stories of several Chinese fighter pilots. The main story line is about Hao and his girl friend, Yun. Both love each other, but reality forces them apart because Yun was arranged to marry another. Yun tries to tell Hao her love for him before she has to leave town to marry another man. But Hao is practicing flying in the air at the time. Yun asks Hao’s friend to let her into the airport hoping to be closer so she can take a look of him one more time. Hao’s friend took Yun to the weather tower. Yun is higher in the air, but she couldn’t tell which jet that Hao is flying because all the jets are the same. I sent a question to the author, Mr. Ma, asking why Yun can’t tell Hao’s jet from the others’.

Mr. Ma nicely sent his reply explaining why. The pilots are high in the air wearing helmets that cover their faces. Each pilot is not assigned permanently with a jet. A pilot may fly a different jet each time. The jets themselves have their own codes; only the commander in charge knows the assignment.

As the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter is introduced, it’s certain that today the dream of a Chinese pilot is to fly J-20; and the young pilots in Flying with You would be seniors or in command of this newer model at this date. The novel, Flying with You, covered a story about Chinese pilots during the introduction time of the previous generation, J-10, which I learned from a recent reading that the then-new Chinese jet’s engine is made by Russia. What I mentioned here regarding the novel are three points: the pilots are skilled with English; the Chinese Communist Party is in control of the air force; and the pilots do not personalize the jets.

While working on this blog, I received an email from Mr. Ma that his movie, Sky Fighters, has its debut in March 2011 in China. I happen to have a few preview photos of the movie as seen below to share with.

A preview of Sky Fighters (《歼十出击》) in September 2010. With English title. Photo by ZQS. Sky Fighters screen written by Mr. Weigan Ma had its debut in March 2011 in China.

A preview of Sky Fighters (《歼十出击》) in September 2010. With English title. Photo by ZQS. Sky Fighters screen written by Mr. Weigan Ma had its debut in March 2011 in China.

A preview of Sky Fighters (《歼十出击》) in September 2010. With Chinese and English title. Photo by ZQS. Sky Fighters screen written by Mr. Weigan Ma had its debut in March 2011 in China.

A preview of Sky Fighters (《歼十出击》) in September 2010. With Chinese and English title. Photo by ZQS. Sky Fighters screen written by Mr. Weigan Ma had its debut in March 2011 in China.

Keywords: 关键词
Flying with You: 《和你一起飞》(HENIYIQIFEI)
Weigan Ma: 马维干
The Planes of Fame Air Museum: 航空名机博物馆
Arizona: 亚利桑那
J-10: 歼10
Russia: 俄国
J-20: 歼20
Commander: 指挥员
The Chinese Communist Party: 中国共产党
Sky Fighters: 《歼十出击》
(This page’s link is
Copyright 2011 Song White

A Chinese Novel about Chinese Fighter Pilots; Three Observations (2)

Jul 12, 2011 at 17:31 | Posted in Chinese Culture 中华文化 | Leave a comment
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Party Committee is the Controlling Body
July 12, 2011
By Song White

There has been a long debate in China on whether the national defense should be under the control of the Party or under the control of the national administration. As far as I recall, the debate went back 30 years ago in the 1980’s. In Flying with You, a story about a group of Chinese fighter pilots in the early 2000’s, the Chinese military is under the Party’s control.

So, here is my second observation: the Party Committee appears to oversee the Chinese military.

As I mentioned, in Flying with You by Mr. Weigan Ma, Hao is the main hero in the book. He falls in love with Yun, a lady physician.

The initial instance that made Hao a hero was an accident towards the end of a practice. When returning to the ground, the jet’s right landing gear stopped working. The Colonel of the Wing, who was the commander on the ground at the time, granted Hao the permission to employ a parachute. Hoping to keep a clean and honorable record of his and his team, Hao chose to go with a forced landing and had a successful touchdown. The problem with the landing gear was caused by a mechanical malfunction—the landing gear’s wheel guard was locked by the rudder cover. Hao’s courage and competence won him a Three-Class Merit. The Merit was issued by the Wing’s Party Committee who is the final authority over, apparently, almost everything.

Throughout the book, the Political Commissar, who is appointed by the Party Committee, has a critical role in any non-operation issues. For example, when there is a spy alert around the airport, the Political Commissar is responsible for the investigation. In another example, when an argument between Hao and Yun impacted Hao’s performance, the Political Commissar has a talk with Hao. Having a talk with someone is considered to do the “mindset” work. Mindset work is also called political ideology work or ideological work. Many psychological issues fall into the ideology work category. The Political Commissar is seemingly playing a psychiatrist role when it happens.

The Party in China as well as in the book is the Chinese Communist Party. In the U.S., it’s hard to imagine the Democrat or the Republican Parties would set up parties’ committees in all the units at all levels within the U.S. defense; nor to say to appoint the party’s political commissars in each unit at all levels to oversee everything, including the personnel’s mindsets.

This is my second observation—the Chinese military force is under the leadership and the control of the Chinese Communist Party. The next observation is about the personalization of the Chinese fighter jets.

 The back cover of the novel, Flying with You《和你一起飞》(HENIYIQIFEI) by Weigan Ma, a story about the Chines fighter pilots in the early 2000’s.

The back cover of the novel, Flying with You《和你一起飞》(HENIYIQIFEI) by Weigan Ma, a story about the Chines fighter pilots in the early 2000’s.

Keywords: 关键词
The Party: (中国共产)党
Weigan Ma: 马维干
Flying with You: 《和你一起飞》(HENIYIQIFEI)
The Party Committee: (中国共产党)党委
Landing gear: 起落架
Wing: (飞行) 团
Colonel of the Wing: (飞行) 团长
Commander: 指挥员
Forced landing: 迫降
Touchdown: 降落
Wheel guard: 轮护板
Rudder cover: 舵门
Three-Class Merit: 三等功
Political Commissar: 政委
Political ideology work: 政治思想工作
Ideological work: 思想工作
Psychological: 心理上的
The Chinese Communist Party: 中国共产党
The Democrat Party: 民主党
The Republican Party: 共和党
(This page’s link is
Copyright 2011 Song White

A Chinese Novel about Chinese Fighter Pilots; Three Observations (1)

Jul 07, 2011 at 01:12 | Posted in Chinese Culture 中华文化, English 英语 | Leave a comment
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Amazing English Usage among Chinese Pilots
July 7, 2011
By Song White

The Chinese J-20 stealth fighter received quite an attention in the past few months around the time when the President of China, Mr. Hu Jingtao, visited the White House, and Robert Gates, the United States Secretary of Defense visited China in January 2011. I was reading a Chinese novel around that time, a novel written by my friend, Mr. Weigan Ma; it’s about the life of a group of Chinese fighter pilots.

The book features the previous generation of the Chinese fighter jet, J-10. The jet was a dream jet that every Chinese pilot has competed to be the first to fly. Mr. Weigan Ma named the book Flying with You. Its main line is a love story: a young female physician Yun and a lead pilot Hao fall in love with each other. Hao, the hero in the book, wins the competition over the other pilots to fly the then-new J-10 jet. His private life seems to fall apart but eventually comes together with Yun. They have their wedding in the air when they are traveling in a commercial jet. The story lines are clear and tense, and the language is witty and funny. I share here my three observations of my reading.

The first observation: Chinese pilots speak English well.

Reading Chinese to me is natural; reading English embedded in Chinese isn’t. In Flying with You, English pops up in the witting conversations among the pilots and their friends quite often. This English can be as short as one letter—U for you, or as lengthy as a complete sentence from Shakespeare—“To be, or not to be—that is the question.” Other examples are:
        No way!
        Ladies first.
        Is it you?
        Yes sir!
        Top Gun [The movie, starred by Tom Cruise.]

One-word English is more frequent, such as RAP, byebye (as spelled in the book), pose, house, and money. There is also creativity in words that combine Chinese verbs with English tense ~ing, for example, 郁闷ing (being gloomy). This is rare as it does not comply with Chinese grammar, but the expression, with some English skill, is very clear. I wonder though how the Chinese readers with little English knowledge will take them.

I thought of the language skills of the US fighter pilots. I haven’t managed to find out their Chinese language skills. I would assume Chinese words popping up in their talk here and there would be a rare thing. However, words like toufu or chow mein would be the possible ones at a Chinese restaurant; or, characters like love (爱) or courage (勇) would be the other possible ones that show in a tattoo.

I am impressed by the English usages among the Chinese pilots in “Flying with You”. This is my first observation. The next observation is about the controlling body in the military.

The cover of the novel, Flying with You《和你一起飞》(HENIYIQIFEI) by Weigan Ma, a story about the Chines fighter pilots’ life in the early 2000’s.

The cover of the novel, Flying with You《和你一起飞》(HENIYIQIFEI) by Weigan Ma, a story about the Chines fighter pilots’ life in the early 2000’s.

Keywords: 关键词
J-20 stealth fighter: 歼20隐形战斗机
President of China: 中国国家主席
Hu Jingtao: 胡锦涛
White House: 白宫
United States Secretary of Defense: 美国国防部长
Robert Gates: 罗伯特•盖茨
Flying with You: 《和你一起飞》(HENIYIQIFEI)
Top Gun: 《壮志凌云》
Tom Cruise: 汤姆•克鲁斯
Weigan Ma: 马维干
Toufu: 豆腐
Chow Mein: 炒面
Love: 爱
Courage: 勇
(This page’s link is
Copyright 2011 Song White

Amazing Qing Dynasty Jade Artwork

Aug 25, 2010 at 14:30 | Posted in Chinese Culture 中华文化, Culture | Leave a comment

Amazing Qing Dynasty Jade Artwork
August 25, 2010
By Song White

While translating for Antiquities, Plus…, I noticed a special fine jade artwork created back in China’s Qing Dynasty (1645-1911).

It is a standing jade dragon body with a cicada being its head. The Curator and Authenticator, Mr. David Fredericks, explained to me that its artist was to mock the then country’s ruler. The dragon is the ruler’s body and its head is a cicada! I know that there is a famous rule of imprisonment for writing in China’s history. This time, it’s a non-literal object. It’s an antique jade piece. This is the first time I saw a non-writing artwork that might also have caused the Chinese artist being persecuted in prior the modern time, Qing Dynasty in this case. The jade art is in the third photo from the top on

Qing Dynasty Parody Piece with Cicada Head on Dragon Body at Antiquities, Plus…

This reminds me of the current Chinese grass mud horse, an alpaca-like creature, and an example of something that, in China’s authoritarian system, conceived as an impish protest against censorship (The New York Times).

(This page’s link is

They Want to Depart China, Too-Western Brands and Chinese Brands

Jan 28, 2010 at 16:10 | Posted in Brand 品牌, Business 商务, China Business 中国商务, Culture, Language 语言, Localization 本土化, Translation 翻译 | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

They Want to Depart China, Too-Western Brands and Chinese Brands
(This page’s link is
January 28, 2010
By Song White

Today’s forwarded email, They Want to Depart China, Too, reflects the brands created by “cottage industries” (山寨) in China. The cottage industries in China have pumped out massive volumes of products with counterfeit Western brands. Also in the past few years, many Chinese businesses created their own Chinese brands that look similar to the original Western brands. For example, abibas vs. adidas. When in January Google threatened to leave China, someone put together this teasing article, They Want to Depart China, Too. One of the points the author makes is the original Western brands have been defeated by their imitation or counterfeit brands in China.

Anyway, language wise, what are some of the original Western brand names that have matching localized Chinese brand names? How about the English translation of the brand names for the Chinese imitation? Let me put out a few:

Original Brand > Localized Chinese Brand

Apple > 苹果

Nike > 耐克

adidas > 阿迪/阿迪达斯

adidas > 阿迪/阿迪达斯

BMW > 宝马

Chinese Brand > English Translation of the Brand

金苹果 > Golden Apple [possibly]

金莱克 > jinak [possibly]

阿迪王 > adivon

[Unknown] > abibas

比亚迪 > BYD

In summary, in addition to the products under numerous local brands, the products in the China market in this context are present in two phases: counterfeiting, and semi-counterfeiting.


[Author unknown; forwarded by Jane Thursday, January 28, 2010]
转发: 他们也要退出
(Song’s Translation: They Want to Depart China, Too)


呃,龙芯相当于我们十年前的产品。 那么十年后,现在生产的过剩芯片就可以到中国市场上来兜售啦。 所以,十年后再来……











雅虎:别哭了 跟哥一起走~









BMW : 商标都被比亚迪取代了,我们撤吧。。。。

ugg:当我们还在澳大利亚雇高薪聘人薅羊毛的时候,我们的最新款式已然在淘宝上普及了,标价不是300欧,是300 元

互联网:在这里 我都变成局域网了…







NIKE:Just 退 it

Facebook: 借腹生子的校内都做成人人了 我还没进来就要退出了




(This page’s link is

Is Mandarin a Chinese Word?

Oct 12, 2009 at 21:00 | Posted in Language 语言 | 1 Comment
Tags: , , ,

Is Mandarin a Chinese Word?
(This page’s link is
Initial posting October 12, 2009; Last revision March 4, 2010
By Song White

Years ago when I was asked if I speak Mandarin, I was puzzled. What’s Mandarin? I later learned that “Mandarin” means the official spoken Chinese language. I am not alone – much of my Chinese friends have the same confusion. That’s because we don’t call it “Mandarin” in China. Instead, it’s “Putonghua”, meaning “common spoken language”.

In China, the Chinese language goes by “Hanyu” (汉语). “Han”, the largest ethnic group in China, accounts for 92% of the population. “Yu” means “language”. Hanyu, the Han Language, is known as “Chinese” today. College Chinese classes are Han Language classes, instead of “Chinese classes” (中文课). For example, Chinese language curriculum offers Classical Han Language (古代汉语), Modern Han Language (现代汉语), etc. There are 50+ ethnic groups in China; many have their own languages, such as Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongol, Sawcuengh (Zhuangyu), and Manchu. “Hanyu” is used to differentiate itself from these languages. The most often used Chinese document, the Chinese currency Renminbi, has five different languages printed in the back as shown in the image below: Hanyu (in Pinyin), Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongol, and Zhuangyu.

Chinese currency renminbi 10yuan 1999 edition back 5 languages-Hanyu (in Pinyin), Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongol, and Zhuangyu

The word “Chinese” (中文) is seldom used unless it is in the context of comparing with foreign languages such as with English or French.

When Chinese refer to the spoken languages or the dialects among groups distinguished by geographical locations in China, it’s typically a compound word: the location plus the word for spoken language, “hua”(话). For example, Guangdonghua (Cantonese) for Guangdong dialect, Beijinghua for Beijing dialect, and Shanghaihua for Shanghai dialect. For the standard spoken language used in all locations, the word again is Putonghua. “Mandarin” (国语, 官话) is unpopular and sounds old fashioned.

Why is there such a word as “Mandarin”? The ruling ethnic group of China in the 17th and 18th centuries is Manchu. Coming from northeast, the Manchu conquered China and established the Qing Dynasty around 1645. The Qing is also called the Manqing or the Manqing Empire, and it was ended in 1911. During its 260-year ruling, Manchus stayed in political power and were the most privileged class (Mongols were next, and Hans were below them). However, the Manchu language education didn’t come to match its political expansion. Being the official language of Manqing, Manchu language wasn’t popularly used among the ruled. Instead, Hanyu sustained and became one of the official languages. Most bureau names and signs in the Forbidden City, the heart of the Manqing, are in both Han characters and Manchu. The same held true in other Manqing’s palaces, resorts, mansions, royal tombs, and cemeteries, though most of them forbad access to the Hans.

While the Han was losing power during the 17th and 18th centuries, Manchu enriched the Han Language in the northeast cities including the capital, Beijing (north in Chinese is “bei”; Beijing means the “northern capital”). For example, a dessert, “saqima” (萨其马), is Manchu’s “sacima”; “blah” is “xiabai”(瞎掰) with “bai” from Manchu’s “baibi”. Hanyu with the Manchu influence spread southward. In 1728, Emperor Yongzheng issued a decree ordering the officials in two southern provinces, Fujian and Guangdong,  to conduct business in Mandarin (Guanhua官话) ( In the late 18th and early 19th, the governments of Manqing and later the Republic of China made the Beijing dialect the official national standard spoken language. I reason the word “Mandarin” being the translation to represent the official spoken language of China during that time.

An Internet finding is different – Encyclopædia Britannica states that “Mandarin” “comes through the Portuguese mandarim from Malay mantri, a counselor or minister of state; the ultimate origin of the word is the Sanskrit root man- meaning ‘to think.’” ( The Portuguese conquered Malacca in 1511 when China was under Han’s Ming Dynasty. Ended in 1644 by the Manchu, the Ming Dynasty had Nanjinghua as its official spoken language. That means there were about 133 years, from 1511 to 1644, when the so-called “Mandarin” was actually Nanjinghua. A city in south China and the first capital of the Ming, Nanjing dialect is different in many ways from that of Beijing. Was “mantri” in Malay used to name the language, Nanjinghua, spoken by the Chinese during the Ming Dynasty? Did “mantri” later refer to another spoken language, Beijinghua, during the Manqing Empire? Or, does it mean any official national standard spoken language of China, regardless being Nanjinghua or Beijinghua? I hope the experts of Portuguese or Malay can help with this.

Is “Mandarin” a Chinese word then? It’s not if the word comes through the Portuguese mandarim from Malay mantri. If it is a translated word based on the Manqing by the Manchus, it may be a Chinese word if you believe Manchu is an ethnic group of China; it goes the other way if you think otherwise.

By the way, nearly one hundred years after the end of the Manqing Empire, Manchu today can be found in written form next to Han characters on the name boards of many buildings from the Manqing time as I noted earlier. There is one and the only one Manchu elementary school in the country, in Sanjiazitun near Qiqihar in Heilongjiang Province ( Large volumes of Manqing documents in Manchu are stored in libraries in Beijing and in the northeast provinces in China, and there are few people capable of reading them. There are Government funded machine translation projects in progress attempting to automatically translate the archives (

The article “In China, the Forgotten Manchu Seek to Rekindle Their Glory” on Wall Street Journal (10/3/09 triggered me to research more and write it down in this journal.

[Revised based on the modified version for Translorial submitted March 3, 2010.]

Jade Rabbit On the Moon 月宫玉兔

Oct 02, 2009 at 12:19 | Posted in Chinese Culture 中华文化, Culture, Localization 本土化 | Leave a comment

(Original posting  by Song on September 8, 08

One of the Chinese tales around the moon is about Lady Changer and a rabbit family.

Long time ago there were 10 suns in the sky. The earth was extremely warm, so warm that plants withered and animals could not live. A warrior, Houyi, came along. He marched, climbed, and finally reached the highest point of the Kunlun Mountains. Using his arrows, he shot down the suns one by one. After 9 suns were down, he left the last one untouched in the sky, but ordered the sun to rise and set on a schedule to support the earth.

Houyi married a beautiful girl, Changer. Many young men gathered asking for to be trained by Houyi to be a warrior. One day Houyi met Goddess Wang and received a small package of herb that secures immortality. However, the herb also automatically lifts an herb-user away from the earth forever. This was nothing Houyi wanted because Houyi did not want to leave his wife. He passed the herb to Changer and asked her to keep it safe. The secret was discovered by one of the students, Pengmeng.

One day all the students followed Houyi out to hunt in the Mountains. Pengmeng sneaked out of the group. He, with a sword in his hand, found Changer and asked her for the herb. Changer, instead of letting an evil become immortal, swallowed the herb herself. She was lifted out of the window immediately and flew through the sky. In the sky, she found out that the moon is the closest planet to the earth. She chose to stay in the moon so she could see her husband from the closest distance she could get.

Houyi came back from hunting and found no wife. He went out in the night air crying into the night sky. He saw that the moon that night was extremely bright and seemingly having his wife’s figure swaying. He went to chase the moon, but the moon moved back when he moved forward. He could never make it. He then setup a small table with incense burner and covered the table with her favorite food and fruit. Many villagers joined in.

One day, a rabbit dad of a rabbit family was called in by Jade Emperor to the Emperor’s Heaven Palace in the moon. The rabbit Dad saw the lone and sad Changer, and discovered her story. After returning home, he discussed with the rabbit Mom on sending one of their four children to accompany Changer. The rabbit Mom felt sad for Changer, but heart-broken when realizing that she had to separate with her own child. After learning the tragedy, all four children volunteered to go and to live with Changer. At the end, the youngest one was chosen, left the earth, became the Jade Rabbit and stayed in the moon with Lady Changer forever.

If you look hard at the moon, you should see the Jade Rabbit and Lady Changer still living there today.

(Original posting Sep 8, 08 by Song at,%2008%20by%20Song)

Song’s Translation For Fun: FW-Moral Dilemma《我的逗乐翻译》:转发-道德困境

Jul 18, 2009 at 00:32 | Posted in Fun 逗乐, Localization 本土化, Translation 翻译 | 1 Comment
Tags: , ,

Song’s Translation For Fun. If you have a better translation, feel free to share. 《我的逗乐翻译》。另有翻译高手,请分享您的佳作。

FW: Moral Dilemma

You are driving down the road in your car on a wild, stormy night, when you pass by a bus stop and you see three people waiting for the bus:

  1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
  2. An old friend who once saved your life.
  3. The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car? Think before you continue reading.

This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application.

You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first. Or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect mate again.


The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his answer. He simply answered: ‘I would give the car keys to my old friend and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the partner of my dreams.’

Sometimes, we gain more if we are able to give up our stubborn thought limitations. Never forget to ‘Think Outside of the Box.’


(Translated by Song White 华颂翻译)


1)   一位仿佛即将死去的老太太。

2)  一位曾经救了你一命的老朋友。

3)  一位你梦中完美的伴侣。







Twittering in Chinese is Easier in Terms of the Message Length

Jun 27, 2009 at 03:17 | Posted in Business 商务, Language 语言, Localization 本土化, Social Media 社交网站, Translation 翻译, Twitter in Chinese | Leave a comment
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Started twittering in March 2009 on an ad-hoc basis. The first couple months I stayed with English. Over a week ago, I started the entries in Chinese. What I have found is interesting: Twittering in Chinese is much easier in terms of the message length.

First I created a Chinese message. It reads “除了学习英语,不同的中文说法也让新移民不得不多花些时间。坎城是哪个城?是法国的Cannes,在大陆则叫戛纳。雪梨不是梨,在大陆是悉尼,是澳大利亚的Sydney。保险业里claim在美国叫理賠,在大陆叫索赔;endorsement在大陆是签注,在美国叫什么呢?批單?”. It talks about how the Chinese translations differ among the Chinese people depending on which area the translation was made or who made it. The Chinese message has 132 characters in Chinese. Without trimming, it fitted right into one message in Twitter that allows only up to 140 characters per posting.

I then tried to develop the same message into English. The trouble came. I could not fit the same level of information into one Twitter message in English. I tried to fit into two, and it did not work. I ended up splitting the English into three chunks to form three Twitter messages. The total English character count is 366 for the 132-character Chinese text. The ratio is close to 3:1.

What does it mean in this social media arena? It means that the Chinese users can save as much as 75% of the effort in tweaking the intended information to fit the current Twitter. Or, of the amount of information going out from the current Twitter, with the same length of 140 characters per message, Chinese can easily contain 75% more content compared with English. Up to my knowledge, the length of some other Indo-European languages such as German is even longer than English, about a fifth to a third longer.

The character limit certainly has set English users up long ago being creative. “u” is “you”; “n” is “and”; etc. In Chinese, without any shortening, “you” is “你”, 1 character. And “and” is “和”, 1 character again. Such examples can be easily grown into a long list.

What does it mean to multi-language communicators? Language wise, nothing new here: developing messages from English into Chinese, one should expect the message to shrink; the other way around, from Chinese to English, expect the message to expand. Twittering wise, any well-designed, thought through message, when being developed into another language, expecting the count of messages will change.

By the way, the three English messages were posted on June 24, 2009 at my Twitter

Finally, I want to thank Jerry Crippledshark Neal and Ted Silker CC/CL at LinkedIn for the feedbacks on the discussion.

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