Posted by: rbbadger | October 19, 2008

Yiu a nam ba wan!

One of the interesting things with Chinese today is the whole question of how to deal with loan words.  Traditionally, Chinese has resisted attempts to import foreign words into its vocabularly, perferring instead to translate them.  Still, even if you don’t import foreign words, you still must deal with them, such as in the names of foreign countries and cities.  So, if I were to go to Washington and visit the Chinese Embassy with the desire of getting a visa, the resulting visa would read  华盛顿 instead of Washington.  华盛顿 is simply the Chinese way of spelling Washington’s name. 

Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau was presented with a scroll which says literally, “yiu a nam ba wan!”.  You can read more about this here.  Especially, in the west, there have grown up all sorts of strange myths about Chinese characters, namely that they represent ideas and not speech.  Chinese may not appear to be very phonetic, but after a while of working with it, you begin to notice which elements of a character are phonetic in nature and which give semantic clues as to the meaning.  There is a phonetic basis to the Chinese character script.  It just isn’t very obvious at times.



  1. Dear Robert,
    You are #1! #1 Son! #1 in keeping your blog up! #1 English teacher! I hope you know that you are #1 to us!!!
    We love you! ~Mama & Daddy

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