Beijing Bus Driver Conversation

Nator: [as we pass my normal bus stop] Aren’t you going to stop?

Driver: No.

Nator: Why not?

Driver: I don’t stop there.

Nator: Where is the next stop?

Driver: Ahead.

2010 NBA All-Star Weekend: BTV 6, Dwyane Wade, and the Haiti Earthquake

I’m watching the NBA 2010 All-Star Weekend festivities right now on BTV 6, Beijing’s sports channel. (CCTV 5 would probably have this in other years, but today it’s showing the Winter Olympics.) After Steve Nash won the skills competition, Dwyane Wade stepped to center court and gave a short speech asking people to contribute to relief efforts for the Haiti earthquake. At the end he said, “And now please listen to this special message from former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.”

The broadcast immediately switched back to the BTV studio, where the three hosts babbled for about five minutes straight. Continue reading “2010 NBA All-Star Weekend: BTV 6, Dwyane Wade, and the Haiti Earthquake”

New CCTV4 Program Testing Foreigners’ Chinese

Contestant Dr. 雷萌 of Cameroon and the Chinese-American I’ve been watching for the past two nights the “Haier Cup Inaugural Foreign Exchange Students in China Chinese Competition”, a new program on CCTV4 (10-11pm in China, from July 10-17 with the finals on July 18.  There is a CCTV4 website about the program where you can view the bios of all the contestantsContestants Dr. Mai Long of Cameroon, and the Contestants Dr. Mai Long of Cameroon, and the and get more info about the program.  A related article says there are 30 foreign contestants in total from 20 countries.

The Program 

The format is that 4 foreigners compete individually on a stage with two Chinese hosts, a panel of 5 judges, and an audience.  There are three parts to the competition.  The first and easiest part is a self introduction of 1 minute.  The next part is a 5 minute simulation where the contestant and a host pretend to be in a certain place like in a taxi or buying items in a grocery store.  During this part the host throws in certain idiomatic expressions and sayings to try to confuse and trip up the contestant.  And these are hard(!), more on that in a minute.  The third part which I think is the most difficult but arguably easier than part 2 is where the contestant watches a short video and then talks about his or her “feeling” in response to the video.  On the first night, the videos were about famous places in China, like the Yangzee River, Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan), etc.  Last night the videos were about traditional Chinese craftsmanship.


After each contestant completes each part, they are awarded between 1 and 5 “lights” (打灯) from the judges.  One light is given by default even if no judge actually thinks the contestant was succesful.  The hosts choose a judge at random to comment on the contestant’s performance.  If they choose a judge who gave a light, he usually says something encouraging to the contestant.  But they also choose judges who don’t give lights, and some of the comments are harsh, i.e. “actually none of you performed well whatsoever”.   At the end of the program, only 3 foreigners remain, with 1 cast off but told that they “might” be able to come back in a later round, so some how there seems to be a second chance for them.  I assume the 3 survivors each night will compete again in a semi-final match. 

What SHTig is saying

The show is hard, and the contestants clearly understand almost nothing that is being said to them.  As a fellow Chinese language learner, it’s a sad thing to see (if not a tad redeeming).  Some of the contestants are so out of it that they’re just babling about something only tangentially related, if at all related, to what the host/video is talking about.

When the camera pans to shots of the audience, you see some ear-to-ear grins from some folks.  This means “it’s so fantastic and honoring and fun that foreigners can speak Chinese”.  Others have a thick face with glossy eyes, which expresses “I have no idea what they are saying and I might be bored as well”.  Then there are others with slight scowls.  These are the ones who disturb me.  Could they be thinking “why the hell are these bafoon foreigners up on a stage parading their awful Chinese around?  Their Chinese is terrible and they are a disgrace.”  It disturbs me because I can think ahead to one day in the future, when China is the superpower, and all the current niceties towards foreigners and their Chinese learning pursuits are turned upside down, i.e. the day when people are expected to know Mandarin well, and anything less is unacceptable.  Listening to the critques from some of the judges I can also sense this sentiment.  However, for now, the view in China as evidenced on this program is “it’s such an honor that these foreigners are learning Chinese language and culture.” 

What the Chinese Blogs are Saying

A blogger named wushanshanmai has already posted his experience of watching the show in Chinese here (warning, he inexplicably splits his post describing this program with a young lady in her underwear… I am lobbying nator, Mul, ODB and uncleronald to let us do the same here on Truth from Facts).  Anyway, I am delighted that wushanshanmai, who describes himself as “an authentic Chinese person” agrees that much of the content is difficult to understand.  He is sympathetic to the foreign contestants, and pleased that they are studying. 

Or maybe his concluding remark is his true intent:

坚决支持这样的文化推广工作!特别欢迎外国的美丽妹妹来学习中国文化,当然也欢迎”定居“中国的外国上门女婿!(I strongly support these types of efforts to promote Chinese culture!  I especially welcome pretty foreign chicks to come study Chinese culture, of course I welcome them to “set up house” here and [I] can move in with them.)

Well, if he can arrange to send that girl in her underwear to us here at Truth From Facts, we might be able to find a foreign girl for him.  Not that I, ODB, Mul or nator are available, but uncleronald may be interested…