Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Olympics boosts Chinese language promotion (2)

But none of these Chinese cultural signs had left a more indelible impression than two simple characters "jia you," a chant that can be loosely translated as "Go! Go!"

The rally call of support and encouragement, easily pronounced than most other Chinese characters, was the most practical and widespread phrase during the Games.

But foreigners have found it hard to properly translate "jia you" as the phrase seems so omnipotent that it could be used in various cases such as "Wenchuan Jiayou" or "Sichuan Jiayou," referring to the Sichuan earthquake that struck the region on May 12, causing huge losses to life and the economy; the whole nation was motivated to conquer the hardship.

Online discussions of the topic became heated since many posters appeared on BBS, inviting ideas about how to best translate "Zhongguo jiayou."

It seems to have become the unifying cry of Chinese everywhere since the devastating earthquake and during the overseas leg of the Olympic torch relay.

Netizen "JSummers83" wrote on TravelChinaGuide.com that he did not consider the translation "Go China" really fitting, especially for the case of the quake.

"Lemoncactus" responded by saying that "Come on China," "Come on Sichuan" might well be a satisfactory translation, meaning support for continuously striving and succeeding despite being in a difficult spot. But its common link with sport made the translation seem odd to him when it had to be related to the earthquake.

Though lost in translation, spectators don't even bother to translate it. During the Games, foreign spectators, waving different national flags, simply chanted "jia you," or even painted the words on their face, to cheer for athletes.


The OCLCI's Zhao said Confucius Institutes worldwide had helped to offer Chinese lessons to athletes attending the Games. The Confucius Institute of the University of Auckland was commissioned by New Zealand's Olympic Committee to teach athletes and coaches some Chinese and culture.

The institute, a Chinese language and cultural teaching body, was named after the great ancient philosopher and educator who traveled across separated Chinese kingdoms about 2,500 years ago to spread knowledge and peace. They had been set up by the OCLCI through cooperation with colleges worldwide since 2004.

It is the Chinese version of Spain's Instituto Cervantes, Germany's Goethe-Institute, the British Council and Alliance Francaise.

By July, 262 Confucius Institutes, mostly a combination of local teaching facilities and teachers sent from China, had been established in 75 countries and regions, statistics showed.

Many elite universities such as the University of California in Los Angeles, the University of Melbourne in Australia and Waseda University in Tokyo had set up Confucius Institutes with the OCLCI.

Currently, there were 40 million non-Chinese learning the language worldwide. The figure was growing by at least 10 million a year and was expected to reach 100 million by 2010, the OCLCI claimed.

After their brief language training with the local Confucius Institute, foreign athletes usually took along small handbooks such as "Olympic Chinese 100 useful sentences" with some "survival Chinese" included.

"About 1 million books have been distributed to foreign athletes or tourists in the athletes' village or at the airport," Zhao said.

In another free service, the OCLCI paid China Mobile to send a text short message to all mobile phone users in the Olympic Green, the central area of the Games, which taught the recipients four short phrases in Chinese, English and the Chinese pronunciation system of Pinyin.

Source: Xinhua

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