Sunday, May 21, 2006

Proper vs Simplified Chinese...

Probably because I'm lazy and "scattered" (according to my Blogthing quiz results), I'm finding it increasingly easy to just respond to other people's content rather than create my own on this blog. Anyway, there has been a debate going on over at SeeChuen's blog about Proper vs Simplified Chinese.

Simply put, people from Hong Kong and Taiwan are used to writing in Traditional Chinese (some people are calling for it to be referred to as "Proper Chinese", which I would heartily agree); whilst people from Mainland China are using the Communist Chinese Party (CCP)'s Simplified Chinese, which is invented a few decades ago to help relieve the mass illiteracy problem in China by making the written language easier to learn.

The reason why this difference is up for debate is because of a recent UN decision to not use Traditional Chinese at all in future UN documentation, effective from 2008, because of China's preference for having only one "true" version of Chinese (obviously, its own Party's Simplified version). Up to now both versions of Chinese have been used in all UN documentations.

Now, aside from the old rivalries between People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan, and the whole Hongkongers vs Mainlanders snobbery going on between Hong Kong and Mainland China, which made the whole debate of the choice between Proper and Simplified Chinese intensely political as well as personal, there are other arguments to be made on both sides too. The Simplified Chinese brigade harp on and on about how it is easier and faster to write; that it is more suited to the "modern world", etc. etc. While the Proper Chinese promoters have so far fall mainly back on sentimental arguments regarding the sheer beauty of the properly written Chinese word itself, to try to persuade the Simplifiers to preserve Chinese culture by allowing the use of Proper (aka Traditional) Chinese. Personally I am also of the opinion that the Simplified version has "killed off" much of Proper Chinese because it has turned thousands of Traditional Chinese words into a mere few hundreds, and as a result of this, much of our cultural heritage is lost.

What the above debate neglects however is the fact that there is a HUGE functional argument to be made on behalf of Proper Chinese as well: the fact that it is a sophisticated, precise communication tool. And that it is this communication tool that has been used in established, cosmopolitan economies such as Hong Kong and Taiwan while China was still playing catch-up. Modern economies require a precise and effective language, not just a fast one. Imagine the havoc that Simplified Chinese could cause in online communications when people cannot tell for sure what the sender meant; or when a clause in a business contract means different things to different parties because of the fact that the same simplified version is being used to represent so many different words in the original Chinese language.

In fact, many people recognise (and even Simplifiers concede) the fact that many Simplified Chinese words are extremley confusing because the same character or ideogram took the place of so many original Chinese words, words which used to have their own expressive written form before. People forget that Simplified Chinese is a version designed for the illiterates. Are we saying we are all illiterates now? That it's just too much to expect people to learn proper Chinese because it's too difficult to write and anyway it's useless in the modern world? One wonders then how Hong Kong people (and indeed Taiwanese people for that matter) managed to learn and build a successful economy over the past hundred years while using Proper Chinese.

Anyway, below is how I have commented on the matter in See Chuen's blog:

Re: 落入繁簡的爭論 (Reply 1)

I read this article quite some time ago now, and because I can't type Chinese on the computer, I feel somehow I'm at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to voicing my opinion on this matter. However, one of the comments above made me feel that I just have to respond:

DD said
"晕倒,真真是简繁之争啊!其实大家不要想那么多嘛,这都只是各人的习惯而已。字,是用来表达人类思想的工具。有新有旧。时间一直在改变,我们使用的工具也一直在变的嘛。就好像以前骑马赶路,现在开车赶路一样,都是同一个目的,向前走到目的地,不是吗?不要过多的把感情放在人类表达思想的工具里面。如果你喜欢,念旧,可以继续从前的方式拉。而今天的大陆人习惯简体了,也就继续用简体拉。每个人都有自己喜欢的方式。谁都不要强迫谁!当然,骑马开车这个比喻有点难登大雅之堂,不过,意思大同小异!"

I will seriously take issue with the view that somehow simplified Chinese is more "modern" and, to use DD's own analogy, a "better tool" in today's "information superhighway" (ah, such a quaint term in today's online world). First of all, there is nothing particularly "modern" about Simplified Chinese apart from the fact that of course it was only created a few decades ago. People who harp on about the "modernness" of Simplified Chinese forgot that it was invented to help the illiterates in mainland China, and that Traditional Chinese (I'd agree to call it "Proper Chinese") have been in use in cosmopolitan societies like Hong Kong and Taiwan for ages. If Simplified Chinese is a "better tool", then people have to remember what that "tool" was used for - to make Chinese easier for the illiterates. Now, in a modern society where there is a guaranteed minimum standard of free education for people, do we still need this "tool"?

In fact, a lot of the debates above highlighted how Simplified Chinese is not a useful tool at all for modern, sophisticated communication. The fact that many of the original Chinese words have been converted into a single simplified version caused a huge amount of problems in terms of differentiating the precise meanings of the words in different contexts. This has the effect of turning what used to be a very sharp and precise instrument of communication into a blunt instrument fit only for the most basic functions. Is that what we want in a modern society? Aren't we taking a huge step BACKWARD in terms of linguistic development if we were to give up the many precise words we use just so that illiterates could learn to write? Shouldn't our national policy be about helping a semi-literate populace up the linguistic ladder by teaching them how to use proper Chinese, once they have mastered simplified Chinese?

To force people to adopt Simplified Chinese is NOT simply a question of geopolitics between PRC and Taiwan, or that people have their sentiments about the language they have grown up with, but is also a vital question of HOW we communicate with each other. Do we want a communication medium that allows us to be precise and to-the-point? Or do we simply want a faster and easier way of writing? I would have thought, as a modern society where there is a basic level of literacy, that we should be heading in the direction of increased sophistication in the language we use. Sure, Simplified Chinese would still be great if people need to use a shorthand for certain words, and they should be allowed to use it. But as an OFFICIAL commuication tool in formal documentations, such as UN documents (and any legal documents for that matter), Proper (aka Traditional) Chinese should be used so that there is little room for confusion and ambiguity. I mean, how could China as a country seriously think it will do its people and its civilisation justice if they force everybody to use a shorthand of its own language rather than teach them to use the real thing? Why force ALL CHINESE PEOPLE to be semi-literates, is my biggest question.

Re: 落入繁簡的爭論 (Reply 2) (with slight amendments)


Also, to those who thought that it is inevitable that Proper Chinese will disappear under the mass of Simplified Chinese users in mainland China, I would say Think again. Simplified Chinese is a language forced on the populace by the CCP, its precise simplification has to be reviewed and sanctioned by the CCP and any permutations that deviate from the CCP line is not allowed. Now this looks to me very much like the situation in France where the French government attempts valiantly to prevent the Anglicisation of the French language by setting up a bureau to police the use of French. However, as we all know, language is a living thing. Words are invented almost everyday to keep up with the pace of change and is not something that can be policed by anyone.

Proper (aka Traditional) Chinese has served Hong Kong and Taiwan well in our economic development by enabling us to talk precisely, and by incorporating some Simplified Chinese to speed up communication in certain contexts, it could allow us to communicate even better. However, the reverse is not so true if we are all forced to adopt Simplified Chinese. Sure, we could write faster, but we will also be more confused than ever before as there is a huge amount of potential errors in communication. And in order to counter-act or circumvent that problem, people will automatically opt for the more precise Proper (aka Traditional) Chinese version themselves. And this is something which the CCP could not prevent no matter how much policing of language it wants to do.

In the end, what is likely to happen is that we will have a mixture of Proper (aka Traditional) and Simplied Chinese. And there is nothing wrong with that, as no-one could retain language purity by themselves so long as language is to be a living language rather than a dead one, and is being used by people to express what they want to express themselves rather than what is officially sanctioned. So I won't place my bet on Proper (aka Traditional) Chinese disappearing too soon. In fact, I will bet the opposite, that more and more people will opt to use Proper (aka Traditional) Chinese as China develops into a first class economy and its people realise the importance of having a precise communication tool, especially in today's business world, where clear communication is needed as well as speed. If "Communist" China could adopt and indeed whole-heartedly embrace market economics, then I don't see why it won't be able to adopt and similarly embrace Proper (aka Traditional) Chinese also. After all, it's our own language we're talking about!

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Arrrgh!!! WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BLOG??

My Blog is driving me mad!! What happened to my font sizes??? After painstakingly fixing all the formatting for my last post which has all these Blogthings thingys, it turns out that all the rest of my blog's font sizes (with the exception of that last post and the title header) have gone completely wonky!! Arrrrrgh!! Somebody help!!

Post Script: That's okay, I fixed it. After scanning through all the [span style font-size-65% tags] which I painstakingly manually inserted to all the bottom links of each an' very Blogbloodythingys, I finally found out that it's the errant omission of ONE single [/span] tag at the very end of that long post that caused the whole trouble. Phew...

P.P.S. Obviously I had to use the square brackets above in order to prevent another bout of the same problem happening... In any case the original 65% font size tags in the last post are rendered impotent because I decided to get rid of the word Span altogether... Of course if I have more time to waste in future I could always go back to that post and fix them. For now though, I'm SICK of these html stuff!! And why oh why does Blogger NOT have that all-important UNDO button ferchrissakes?? I noticed that You COULD UNDO (by using the keyword shortcut Ctrl Z apparently). Now why don't they create that button? At the very least, they should have LISTED THAT SHORTCUT in the Shortcut list below the Posting window, instead of all these stupid commands like "Publish" where there are already bloody buttons created for them!! Arrrgh!! Somebody fire that inconsiderate jerk who've never felt the need to UNDO anything in his/her friggin' life!!

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

About Me... Blogthings Results

Okay, I may as well get this Blogthings thing out of my system by posting a bunch of the results from all those little quizzes I did in the wee hours of this morning when I really should have a whole lot better to do (like sleeping!)...

First of all, I should tell you my name...


Your Irish Name Is...

Aoife O'Connor


Your French Name is:

Virginie Blanchet


Your Italian Name Is...

Brunella Rossi



Your 1920's Name is:

Aurora Queen


And this is what I look like....


Your Eyes Should Be Hazel
Your eyes reflect: Intellect and sensuality
What's hidden behind your eyes: Subtle manipulation
What Color Should Your Eyes Be?


This is my outlook and worldviews according to quasi-scientific online dipstick research...


Your Political Profile:
Overall: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal


You Are 52% Open Minded
You are a very open minded person, but you're also well grounded.
Tolerant and flexible, you appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.
But you also know where you stand firm, and you can draw that line.
You're open to considering every possibility - but in the end, you stand true to yourself.


Your Brain's Pattern
Your mind is a multi dimensional wonderland, with many layers.
You're the type that always has multiple streams of though going.
And you can keep these thoughts going at any time.

You're very likely to be engaged in deep thought - and deep conversation.


And apparently this is what I'm like as a person...


Your Personality Is
Rational (NT)
You are both logical and creative. You are full of ideas.
You are so rational that you analyze everything. This drives people a little crazy!

Intelligence is important to you. You always like to be around smart people.
In fact, you're often a little short with people who don't impress you mentally.

You seem distant to some - but it's usually because you're deep in thought.
Those who understand you best are fellow Rationals.

In love, you tend to approach things with logic. You seek a compatible mate - who is also very intelligent.

At work, you tend to gravitate toward idea building careers - like programming, medicine, or academia.

With others, you are very honest and direct. People often can't take your criticism well.

As far as your looks go, you're coasting on what you were born with. You think fashion is silly.

On weekends, you spend most of your time thinking, experimenting with new ideas, or learning new things.


You Are a Seeker Soul
You are on a quest for knowledge and life challenges.
You love to be curious and ask a ton of questions.
Since you know so much, you make for an interesting conversationalist.
Mentally alert, you can outwit almost anyone (and have fun doing it!).

Very introspective, you can be silently critical of others.
And your quiet nature makes it difficult for people to get to know you.
You see yourself as a philosopher, and you take everything philosophically.
Your main talent is expressing and communicating ideas.

Souls you are most compatible with: Hunter Soul and Visionary Soul


Your Values Profile
Loyalty:
You value loyalty a fair amount. You're loyal to your friends... to a point. But if they cross you, you will reconsider your loyalties. Staying true to others is important to you, but you also stay true to yourself.
Honesty:
You value honesty a fair amount. You're honest when you can be, but you aren't a stickler for it. If a little white lie will make a situation more comfortable, you'll go for it. In the end, you mostly care about "situational integrity."
Generosity:
You value generosity highly. So much so that you often put your own needs last. There's nothing wrong with having a caring heart...But you may want to rethink your "open wallet" policy.
Humility:
You value humility a fair amount. You tend to be an easy going, humble person. But occasionally your ego takes over. You have a slight competitive streak - and the need to be the best.
Tolerance:
You value tolerance highly. Not only do you enjoy the company of those very different from you...You do all that you can to seek it out interesting and unique friends. You think there are many truths in life, and you're open to many of them.


Your Five Factor Personality Profile
Extroversion:
You have high extroversion. You are outgoing and engaging, with both strangers and friends. You truly enjoy being with people and bring energy into any situation. Enthusiastic and fun, you're the first to say "let's go!"
Conscientiousness:
You have low conscientiousness. Impulsive and off the wall, you don't take life too seriously. Unfortunately, you sometimes end up regretting your snap decisions. Overall, you tend to lack focus, and it's difficult for you to get important things done.
Agreeableness:
You have medium agreeableness. You're generally a friendly and trusting person.But you also have a healthy dose of cynicism. You get along well with others, as long as they play fair.
Neuroticism:
You have medium neuroticism. You're generally cool and collected, but sometimes you do panic.Little worries or problems can consume you, draining your energy. Your life is pretty smooth, but there's a few emotional bumps you'd like to get rid of.
Openness to experience:
Your openness to new experiences is high. In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas. You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits. A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.


You Are 40% Boyish and 60% Girlish
You are pretty evenly split down the middle - a total eunuch.
Okay, kidding about the eunuch part.
But you do get along with both sexes.
You reject traditional gender roles.
However, you don't actively fight them.
You're just you. You don't try to be what people expect you to be.


You're 50% Irish
You're probably less Irish than you think you are... But you're still more Irish than most.


And if my life is a metaphor...


The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick
You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times.Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!
Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite


You Are New York
Cosmopolitan and sophisticated, you enjoy the newest in food, art, and culture.You also appreciate a good amount of grit - and very little shocks you.You're competitive, driven, and very likely to succeed.
Famous people from New York: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Tupac Shakur, Woody Allen
What American City Are You?


You Should Learn French
C'est super! You appreciate the finer things in life... wine, art, cheese, love affairs.
You are definitely a Parisian at heart. You just need your tongue to catch up...


You Are a Blue Flower
A blue flower tends to represent peace, openness, and balance.At times, you are very delicate like a cornflower.And at other times, you are wise like an iris.And more than you wish, you're a little cold, like a blue hydrangea.



You are Milk Chocolate
A total dreamer, you spend most of your time with your head in the clouds.
You often think of the future, and you are always working toward your ideal life.
Also nostelgic, you rarely forget a meaningful moment... even those from long ago.


[Drumroll] And now, behold! My love secrets are about to be revealed!


Your Five Variable Love Profile
Propensity for Monogamy:
Your propensity for monogamy is high. You find it easy to be devoted and loyal to one person. And in return, you expect the same from who you love. Any sign of straying, and you'll end things.
Experience Level:
Your experience level is medium. You probably have had a couple significant loves.And you may have even had your heart broken. But you haven't really dated a wide variety of people.
Dominance:
Your dominance is low. This doesn't mean you're a doormat, just balanced.You know a relationship is not about getting your way.And you love to give your sweetie a lot of freedom.
Cynicism:
Your cynicism is medium. You'd like to believe in true and everlasting love...But you've definitely been burned enough to know better. You're still an optimist, but you also are a realist.
Independence:
Your independence is high. You don't need to be in love, and sometimes you don't even want love. Having your own life is very important for you...Even more important than having a relationship.


Your Seduction Style: Prized Object
The seduction game you play is tried, true, and still effective: hard to get. You know that the best seducers turn the tables - and get their crush to seduce them. The one running has the power, and you're a challenge that is worth the chase.
You are a master of enticing and pulling back. Giving a little and taking some away. You are controlled enough to know rewards come after a long seduction dance. Even though you want to call, email, or say "I love you" first - you don't!
You're style is the perfect mix of hot and cold - so much so that you have many suitors. Think Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany's ... or any of those creepy guys from the Bachelor. You're skilled at inspiring a chase. The real test is picking the person to slow down for.
What Kind of Seducer Are You?


Your Seduction Style: The Charmer
You're a master at intimate conversation and verbal enticement.
You seduce with words, by getting people to open up to you.
By establishing this deep connection quickly, people feel under your power.
And then you've got them exactly where you want them!
What Is Your Seduction Style?


You Are Red Orange
You are a very genuine person, although it takes a while for you to show the true you.
A bit introverted, you desire respect and affection from those close to you.
You are quite empathetic, and you have a true concern for the well being of others.
Many people have warm, heartfelt memories of you - even if you don't remember them well.


Your Love Life Secrets Are
Looking back on your life, you will have a few true loves.
You've been deeply wounded in the past, and you're still recovering from that hurt.
You expect a lot from your lover - you want the full package. You tend to be very picky.
In fights, you are able to walk away and calm down. You are able to weather the storm.
Break-ups can be painful for you, but you never show it. You hold your head high.


How You Are In Love
You take a while to fall in love with someone. Trust takes time.
You tend to take more than give in relationships.
You need your space and privacy. You don't like to be smothered.
You love your partner unconditionally and don't try to make them change.
You stay in love for a long time, even if you aren't loved back. When you fall, you fall hard.


[Unnecessary Disclaimer for the Amazingly Naive: Not everything you read in print is true, and this truism is especially true on the Internet!]

But seriously, and finally, this is one I like best:


Your Hidden Talent

You are both very knowledgeable and creative.
You tend to be full of new ideas and potential - big potential.
Ideas like yours could change the world, if you build them.
As long as you don't stop working on your dreams, you'll get there.

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

It's decidedly so...

So says my magic 8 ball when I posed this momentous question a couple of days ago:

Would I be able to finish my PhD in a year's time?

Thank goodness the answer came back positive.

(Though if not I probably would have just given it another shake...)

But yeah, thank goodness indeed, I got it right the first go. A major weight off my chest, etc.

I tell myself - Now I have to make it happen!

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A Hong Kong Writer's View on Life

I'm very lucky again to be able to read a really good piece by virtue of linking through SeeChuen's blog. This is a description by See Chuen's friend Tale regarding their visit to hear the Hong Kong novelist Wong Bik Won 黃碧雲 being interviewed back in 2004. By now I have read so much about her books that I swear I will get myself a good few of them when I go to Hong Kong (though the truth is I probably won't be there though for another few years... sigh...). I tried searching for her books on YesAsia.com but no surprise that I couldn't find any of hers there at all...

Anyway, about the article itself, I am really touched by how Wong sees her writing and her life. In many respects I can see my own uncertainties being articulated in her words, especially about trying to flee from an unpleasant or more accurately unbearable situation. Or, to use her more positive spin on things, to flutter like a butterfly to more pleasant and greener pastures. (Much better than the jumping-from-the-frying-pan-and-into-the-fire scenario, eh?)

It's given me a little hope that perhaps I too could flutter away to somewhere much nicer than where I am now...


"有人問她:你抱怨書每次都賣得這麼慘,又有人說看不明白,你對讀者有什麼期望嗎?寫下去,又為了什麼?她笑著說,書賣得慘,已經認命了。寫作的時候,每本書都有所不同,有些是歷史的,有些是關於女性的。那些書的企圖比較明顯,但另一些則很難說。至於為什麼還要寫下去,每個階段也有不同的原因。現在的原因是,想回答一些很重要的問題,而寫作的過程回答了這些問題。一些小時候會問的問題,如生命的價值。如果這些問題能夠回答,相信對別人也同樣重要

有人問:你的「Attempts and their failures」是在不斷推翻自己嗎?她說這是一個必要的過程。但這並不意謂著進步,因為可能最後你回到原來的位置,很宿命的。可能走了等於沒走。

有人問她:你為什麼跳舞,為什麼當律師,為什麼這樣之後又那樣。她就不好意思地笑著,當律師是不想再當記者了,想找份好工做。又說這是在數她的缺點。有一次爬山看見蝴蝶在飛,卻總也不知道它在往哪一個方向。一個處境難以忍受了,於是就跳進另一個火堆。或者是那裡好玩,於是又去了那裡。

有人問她:你這樣是在企圖選擇處境嗎?她說她當然想選擇處境了,但往往是處境來選擇你。選擇處境是很困難,同時也太驕傲的想法"
---from Tale's Blog http://www.littlelittle.org/blog/?postid=52


Or perhaps I shouldn't be too proud and should pray instead for the right scenario to choose me? If so, I know I should be more open to change - more pertinently, to actually follow up on the positive changes that's been happening in my life lately, rather than keep putting things off and not keeping in touch with really nice friends and contacts out of sheer lethargy...

What's wrong with me? Don't I know that opportunities need to be grabbed with both hands??

Another thing that struck me about her answers - they've made me realise the importance of the fun of writing, the sheer use of writing as a vent for ideas and emotions. I think I have forgotten about this hugely essential function of writing in my life precisely because I have neglected my writing - both academic and personal - for so long. I have a writer's block for so long, out of sheer fear of the task ahead of me. I can at least admit it now in black and white. No wonder I have been 'hiding' myself in online forums and blogging, and the occasional poetic or novelistic outbursts. I should pull myself together and just start.

Remember what my magic 8 ball says just the day before yesterday?

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Viewfinder...

Where are you from?

Que sera sera...

Feed my pet!

Currently getting stuck in...

Have just finished...

Me, Anime...

A bunch of snowdrops by any other name...

SNOWDROPS
S is for Sweet
N is for Natural
O is for Open-hearted
W is for Worldly
D is for Dedicated
R is for Romantic
O is for Original
P is for Perfectionist
S is for Special
What Does Your Name Mean?