Tuesday, June 18, 2013

US Propaganda as Teaching Aid

I'm still pounding away at my language learning mission.  It's going OK.  One thing I tried as a teaching aid briefly was Voice of America for China.  Basically it's blatant US propaganda directed at the Chinese.  What's nice about it though as a teaching aid is you get a transcript and the text is spoken by the news anchors.  So what I tried to do was first take the transcript and paste it into Google Translate.  This gives me a kind of rough translation and it also gives me the romanized version of the text.  So for instance you see 中 and Google Translate tells you it is pronounced zhōng and also gives you the main definition.  Then I'd just work through it by translating the individual words.  I was thinking I'd note words that I thought would make good additions to my flash card program.  Then knowing kind of what is being said I'd listen to the anchors read it and try to follow.  It was a pretty big undertaking.  I only tried it briefly because I found something else that worked better for me.

Anyway, here's a translation I did from the broadcast from February 8 of this year.  Interesting in light of the recent disclosures about how Obama has drawn up a list of targets for cyber attack.  VOA paints China negatively for doing the same back in February.  A Chinese friend at work was watching VOA yesterday I noticed and I asked him what they were talking about.  They were aggressively criticizing Edward Snowden for revealing that the US is doing exactly what VOA criticized China for doing back during the show I transcribed.  My translation was literal, word for word, which is why grammatically it's so strange.  I have one line in black and then my literal word for word translation of that black line follows in bold, then this is repeated.  The end is interesting.  "China does not hesitate through internet crime to advance it's economic and political interests."  Pot meets kettle.

Huáshèngdùn— yīgè xīngqí lái, jǐ gè hé wǎng lù yǒuguān de xīnwén yǐnqǐ guǎngfàn zhùyì.
Washington – one class week come, several class (he?) internet related de news cause widespread attention.

Shǒuxiān shi měiguó “niǔyuē shí bào” děng duō jiā quánwēi méitǐ xuānbù zāo dào zhōngguó
First is America “New York Times” same many other authoritative media announce by the Chinese

hēikè gōngjí, yǐnfā qiángliè guānzhù. Qícì, wǎng lù jùbāi gǔgē gōngsī de dǒngshì zhǎng
hacker attacks, initiate intense interest. Secondly, internet giant Google company de director Eric

shī mì tè zài qí xīnshū zhōng, chēng zhōngguó shì quánqiú zuì wéixiǎn de chāojí
Schmidt located its new book within, calls China is global/total most danger de super

qiángquán, yīn wéi zhōngguó zhèngfǔ hé guóyíng qǐyè bùxī tòuguò wǎng lù fànzuì lái huòqǔ
power, because China government and state-run enterprise not hesitate through internet crime come get

jīngjì hé zhèngzhì lìyì
economic and political interests.


Jonathan said...

Kudos with your continued language learning. Have you tried watching any movies? My Roku has a channel that's all in Tamil (southern Indian language) which is fun to watch sometimes. I bet they've got a Mandarin channel too.

I figure Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury would be more interesting (and useful in a dark alley) learning than politics. (OK, so he speaks Cantonese - details...)

Jon said...

I did try a movie a while back, but what's tough is they just give you English subtitles and I need not only that but also the romanized script (what they call pinyin) and I couldn't find movies that had both. They talk so fast I couldn't even distinguish the Chinese sounds, so I needed that. But I lucked out and found an incredible alternative that I've been using. It's a website that uses native Chinese content, like commercials, movie clips, music videos, has the Chinese script as well as the pinyin and English, and when you mouse over the words it pauses and gives you fuller definitions. Then it quizes you in a cool way. And you can select videos based on your current level. Just the perfect tool as far as I'm concerned, and unbelievably it's free. I think ultimately they will charge for it. They are finalizing the design at this time as far as I can tell. I won't complain if it does stop being free because I'm getting so much from it. Here's an example if you're curious. I can't say enough good things about it.

Jonathan said...

Wow, that's a really great website - very well done. Makes me wanna learn Chinese. Too bad they don't have something like that for Hindi. So can you hold a conversation with the waitress at the Chinese buffet yet?

Jon said...

Well, define conversation. :) I do try. I'm OK in terms of expressing myself, so I'll approach a Chinese person and say something, but when they respond I have a very hard time grasping what they say, even when they use words I should know. So that's a weakness I have, but having done this several times I'm starting to learn what to expect them to say. How long have you been studying, where do you study, etc. So I know that's coming and I know how to answer it, so we manage a little mini conversation.

I had this great experience recently at a conference. There were many Chinese people there and when we ate we had these tiny standing tables for eating finger foods. A whole group of Chinese people was at one table and so I said to the people I was with "Dare me to go interrupt and start speaking Chinese with them?" And so I did. It was so funny. They are talking amongst themselves, and I'm 6'3' and I walk up and they all stop and stare up at me and I say "Nimen rang mei guo ren zai zhei ge chou zi?" (Do you allow Americans at this table?) They were obviously pretty surprised to hear that coming out of my mouth. It was hilarious. I said it a little wrong I think, but they got the message. They really encouraged me and were supportive, obviously not bothered by the fact that I'm not doing it exactly right. So I've had a few experiences like that. So I'd say it's coming along.

What I'd really like to be able to do is have a meaningful conversation with someone, like get to know them well, share dreams and aspirations, these sorts of things. That's not the kind of conversation I can have at this point. But if I can manage to stick with it I think I'll get there. Truth be told I think I could be there in a year if I maintain this pace. Maybe less time than that. End of 2013 maybe? Maybe that's an aggressive goal, but if I could hit that I'd be thrilled.

Jonathan said...

That's awesome. I get bits and pieces of that when I try and speak basic Hindi, mainly at Indian restaurants here, but occasionally out in public, or with a VA.

The other day, I ordered Indian food, and just said thank you in Hindi at the end of the conversation. I went in to pick up my food, and there was a guy in front of me from India who came to have supper. The lady assumed he had the pickup, and I was there for supper, and it kinda blew her mind that some random white dude knew some Hindi. We have a 5 minute conversation about the Punjab where she's from, and it turns out I've visited maybe 30 km from her home town.

I too want to use it for more purposeful relationships, and this will probably happen more and more as I build my VA business. It's amazing how many people are willing to work with you when they find out you (sorta) speak their language, have a genuine interest in their culture, and have actually visited their home state/country.

So what's your goal after you learn the language? Have you ever thought of visiting China? Do you see any opportunities at work to use that skill? The great thing when you develop a skill like that is you can really become more invaluable to the company, and open up a lot of other doors in your life you hadn't thought of before.

Jon said...

That's really great. What you did in the restaurant and what I'm doing as I approach Chinese people is really what I find so enjoyable about this experience, the way you connect with people. Nobody expects you to speak Hindi, and they encounter you without any expectation of a connection, and then you let them know that you are interested in them and their culture and they are often really happy. I love seeing that happen.

When I had just started learning, like a week into it, I went to the mall and went to Panda Express. This guy that barely spoke English rang me out. He was elderly. And I said "Ni hui shuo putonghua" (Do you speak Mandarin?) and his eyes just lit up. "Hui!!" he said, and then a bunch more. I had to say sorry, I don't understand. It was really great. I imagine him slaving away serving Americans with people looking right through him like he's not even there and I think we tell them they matter when we take an interest in them. This is what I really enjoy, and I look forward to doing it even more as I get better.

You know, I'm not sure that I have a professional goal with learning this. I've thought about it I have to admit. Meaning I've thought about how it could provide other professional opportunities. It's not really why I'm doing it though. It was first and foremost just a challenge. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I look at bilingual people and they just seem like magicians to me. But my rational side tells me that they aren't, and if they can do it so can I. The part of me that questions that I can really do it is exactly what inspires me work at it.

It was just like that when I learned to play guitar. It seemed baffling to me that others could do it, and my rational side said it can't be impossible. They do it, so I can too. When you first pick it up a part of you thinks you'll never get it. It is so difficult in the beginning. But my rational side was right. I could do it, and I did learn it. And now I have that skill and I value it. It's not a skill you can just buy, you have to work for it. And nobody can take it from you. So I really value that, more than my material possessions. Thinking about this prompted me to try language. I've always admired others that do it, and I'm envious of them. If I can do it I'll have something like an ability to play an instrument that I would value, that can't really be bought in the normal sense.

But you're right, it could be useful in my job. Perhaps if I had thought about this more I'd have tried Japanese instead, which perhaps in my profession is more useful. But Chinese is good too. What I have kind of thought about is taking a different role that put me more in contact with other people from other cultures, including Chinese. I do enjoy the human contact aspect of my job and I think that could be expanded further than it is with language.

I tell you though, I'm working my butt of. Maybe an hour and a half every day, often more. I've studied for as much as 4 hours in a day. I'm pretty committed thus far. I hope I can sustain it. I think I will.

Jonathan said...

I think it's great you're doing it in large part due to the challenge of it as opposed to for some sort of gain at work. That being said, if you can kill two birds with one stone, and it helps bring you more security at work since you're the dude who speaks with the tooling place in China, or it helps you retire sooner while doing more of what you enjoy because you start making money on the side consulting as a bilingual ME who knows automotive manufacturing, all the better, right? I know, that's just the entrepreneur in me talking.

For me, I'm learning Hindi with an end in mind. Specifically, so I can connect with people that I will be working with in India when I finally leave the 9-5 and am able to spend 2-3 months over in India doing humanitarian and mission work. It also has the dual benefit of maybe helping me achieve this even faster by grow my side biz doing what I love - talking with people from places like India and working with VA work. In the mean time, it's also awesome to be able to meet folks locally and find out more about them. So I guess that's sort of the connection idea with a bit more intentionality involved.

Things have been very crazy the last few months with our 3rd child being born, but you've encouraged me to get back on the Hindi thing when I commute.

Jon said...

I think you're right that you are setting yourself up well to get the VA thing working learning Hindi. Hey, we could tag team it, right, with me working contacts in China and you in India.

I put Hindi on my list of top 5 languages I'd want to learn. Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic, and then maybe French? It's a fantasy I know, but it's fun to imagine it anyway. Truly if I even manage a single second language that will be pretty cool. So maybe when you master it I'll lean on you to learn it too? You can tell me what worked for you and what didn't.

Here's a little shared experience for you I have that you can put in your memory bank and see if it works for you. At that website I linked to I've been watching music videos. So I'm studying the text through the website learning the words, and then on my commute I supplement by just listening to the same songs as I drive. Not sure how much good it does, but it can't hurt, right? Of course there is plenty of Indian music, so just to mix it up on your drive perhaps you could try something similar. Really I'm doing this with my first song just now. I actually have several songs but I've only studied the lyrics on one. But I'm singing along for parts of it already and that's helping me burn words into my brain. Kind of a fun way to learn because some of these songs are quite good.