Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Is Chinese writing too difficult?

On April 4th 2015, a Japanese television show aired a program that tested “the intelligence of” Japanese top athletes. In it, the athletes took tests with subjects like math, Japanese among others that people learn during the compulsory education. English was one of them. One of the English test questions was to translate, “Chinese character is too difficult for an American,” into Japanese. The English sentence has four errors. The first one is the confused use of nouns: not Chinese character but Chinese characters. The second one is the misuse of an article: not an American but the American. As the Master of Ceremony in the TV show proceeded it became obvious that “Chinese character” meant a Japanese writing symbol. Japanese has three writing characters and one of them, kanji, came from China. Chinese character is the official translation of kanji. Without such a specific knowledge, readers will automatically think ‘Chinese character’ means Chinese writing. The largest error is the ridiculing tone that the sentence has against American people: Americans are too dumb to understand Chinese writings. Wow! I hope this is an unintended error.

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