Archive for October, 2008

Wa sai!: Penang Police Practice Profanities

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Ah, the joys of living in a multilingual country. Malaysian police in Penang (who are mostly ethnically Malay) are being trained in Hokkien swear words so they can recognise when the local Hokkien-lang are being less than courteous.

Story from MySinchew.com.

Reminds me of something I read about the arrival of Republic of China officials in the period immediately post-World War II. Various events had made the new arrivals unwelcome (carpet-bagging to feed the civil war in China and for personal gain, the February 28th massacre) and the longer-term residents were not shy about expressing their displeasure.

The standard term of abuse for the new arrivals (who generally could not understand Taiwanese) was ti-á (pig). However, the slandered Chinese soon caught on, forcing the locals to come up with new insults – eventually settling on kam-á (tangerine). Why? Because feast-day roast pigs in Taiwan had tangerines placed in their mouths.

MoE releases online Taiwanese dictionary (finally!)

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Unfortunately no time to look into this in depth at the moment, but the Taipei Times today detailed the announcement by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan of a new web-based dictionary for Taiwanese (referred to in the report as Hoklo):

After seven years of development, the Ministry of Education has completed the first official online dictionary for Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese).

The Online Taiwan Common Hoklo Dictionary test version contains 16,000 commonly used Hoklo terms and words in transliteration.

Ministry officials said the dictionary was very user-friendly and that non-Hoklo speakers could look up Hoklo phrases by keying in their Mandarin equivalent.

[…]

Users of the Hoklo dictionary can look up words by keying in headwords (“catchwords”), transliteration of the words and the words’ Mandarin equivalents through “fuzzy searches” or “focus searches,” Chen said.

[…]

Phonological differences and regional variations, including the two major variants — Chuanchou (泉州) and Changchou (漳州) — are also recognized by the dictionary, she said.

Yao Rongsong (姚榮松), chief editor of the ministry’s editing committee and a professor of Taiwanese literature at National Taiwan Normal University, said creating the dictionary was very time consuming because editors had to switch from the Taiwan Language Phonetic Alphabet they had initially used to Taiwanese romanization.

Hmm, I can’t believe that the switch from TLPA to Tai-lo was responsible for the project taking a long time. It would only take a day for a competent programmer to write a conversion program for their existing data.

Still, it’s great that this has finally seen the light of day. I’ll be interested to see whether it’s better than the 台文/華文線上辭典 – I’ll report back once I have had time to give it a thorough look-through.

Report taken from the Taipei Times: MOE launches first Hoklo-language online dictionary

Ministry of Education to create standardised Taiwanese exams

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Last month the Taiwanese Ministry of Education (MoE) announced plans to create a system of standardised testing for Taiwanese.  The examinations, which will be outsourced to “competent organisations” are intended to be open to all, and will be divided into six grades: beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate, advanced intermediate, advanced, and professional.

Successful examinees will be awarded a certificate to proudly display their Taiwanese chops. No word on the form the written exam will take; President Ma Ying-jeou has previously expressed a preference for character-based study of Taiwanese, but it would be good if the candidates had a choice of writing in romanisation only (probably using the MoE-approved Tai-lo system).

Information is scant at the moment, with the MoE’s press release (Mandarin characters, Microsoft Word file) being more a statement of intent rather than a detailed run-down of how it’s going to work. Thanks to Mark of Pinyin.info for the heads-up.