PC LOAD LETTER? What the f**k does that mean [in Chinese]?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/12/23 07:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2010/12/23/10108492.aspx

So, I'm still deciding how I feel about this one:

Foreign words to be standardized

Chinese media organizations and publishers are banned from randomly mixing foreign languages with Chinese in publications. When it is necessary to use foreign phrases or words, they should be accompanied by a translation or explanation in Chinese, according to a new regulation.

The regulation was issued on Monday by the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) with the aim of standardizing the use of language in newspapers and other publications, particularly when foreign languages are employed.

The administration said the increasingly random appearance of foreign words and abbreviations, especially English, in publications is damaging the Chinese language.

Under the regulation, abbreviations such as GDP (gross domestic product), CEO (chief executive officer) and CPI (consumer price index), which regularly feature in publications, should either be translated into Chinese or followed by explanatory notes in Chinese.

This includes requiring the use of English place names, people and companies to be translated into Chinese.

And so on.

Victor Mair talks about the issue over on Language Log, under the title English Banned in Chinese Writing.

He dissects the arguments much more effectively than I likely could.

But I wondered about the next phase. I mean, since in China there is often a long view. And a next phase.

I wonder if they will decide they feel the same way about localized software products.

At the most extreme, there are cases like the one I discuss in My name is Michael Kaplan and I work for Корпорация Майкрософт and Майкрософт vs. Microsoft, aka On choosing the most reasonable inconsistency, where a language wants and requires everything to be localized.

But for Chinese, there are many things kept in English by convention -- like keyboard shortcuts. And menu accelerators. And system account names. And passwords (the latter is because an IME would cause the password to be visible, a potential security issue).

If it suddenly became a GB18030 or equivalent requirement to do this in localized Windows and not have these bits of English, the product itself would break backwards compatibility, usability, and security expectations for the entire market!

I am still getting my head around this one, in case it becomes an issue.

The title's joking reference to the non-assclown version of  Michael Bolton's reaction to an old school hardware error message is to hint at another problem: the ENGLISH is often nonsensical crap to even very knowledgeable English users; it is unlikely that many of such "forced translations/transliterations to Chinese" would do anything beyond worsening the situation.

One could even make the argument that the purity of Chinese would be injured more by such a move -- it may well be better to leave these acronyms and confusing terms in English to keep this crap segregated from a language that someone has aspirations of keeping out of the gutter!

OK, more seriously....

On the plus side, hundreds of "we won't fix so leave us the hell alone" localizability bugs become "shut the hell up because you have to fix 'em" geopolitical bugs.

But on the minus side, the product wouldn't serve people in China very effectively.

We'll have to wait and see....

Martijn on 23 Dec 2010 9:50 AM:

Agreed in that translating foreign words _per se_ won't really solve any issues.  Using proper wording (whether in Chinese, English, or whatever language) is a far more useful restriction.  Unfortunately, one that's also far more difficult to check...

Cheong on 23 Dec 2010 5:18 PM:

While it may not make much sense in keyboard shortcut like things, it does in general favours people who does not have good Engligh vocabulary set to read Chinese written articles more easily.

But for company names, I'm wondering if the company never enter Chinese market, translating the name into Chinese phonetic equivalent will do any good... especially if there's another well known company which has a name that sounds similar.

I would, however, like to see the origional text in the regulation to see whether it's really that poorly-designed or not.

Cheong on 23 Dec 2010 5:49 PM:

I've found and read the regulation. It's not as irreasonal as what you say.

The only paragraph that regulates "uses of foreign language" reads:

3) Pay high attention to the formalization of usage of Foreign language. Media and publishing orangizations shall enforce formalization of foreign language usage, respect and follows standard grammatical structure , wordings and rules of Chinese and other foreign language you're using. In any Chinese publishing materials, it's forbidden informal foreign languages usages such as the use of informal English words or abbreviations, forbidden to use words that's "neither use like that in Chinese or foreign language" or ambiguous words, forbidden violation of standard language usage like "addition / removal / shuffling of letters up to your will" (Comment: This one I suspect is to regulate intensional misspelling of words to get around web filters). When there's a need to use words in foreign language, corresponding remarks in Chinese should be added. The translation of foreign words should be made appropiate with the basic translation rules and common usage. Proper names such as foreign person / place names and scientific jargons need to follow rules of corresponding regulations when translating to Chinese.

Michael S. Kaplan on 23 Dec 2010 8:51 PM:

I was thinking of ways itcould get extended to software, and challenges doing so. Since the English is confusing, they could deem that jargon and want better localization quality rather than the confusing English....

Cheong on 23 Dec 2010 9:43 PM:

Agreed. And standardization of terms could be a good thing.

I mean... there are some computer related jagons written as completely different Chinese word in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. If there could be standardized name, it's good for spread of knowledge.

I'd, however, think that it'd be better to do by the Chinese speaking communities, not by any government entities. At least community created terms would likely to make more sense than lots of so called "specialists".

Michael S. Kaplan on 24 Dec 2010 11:26 AM:

Microsoft already *does* build glossaries so there *will* be standard words used, and Chinese has obviously built up over many years now. The thought of a government standard on that is rather frightening....

Otaku on 24 Dec 2010 11:32 AM:

I tend to 同意 with the ban. Having seemingly random 外语 words appear sporatically throughout any Chinese publicatation is a disservice to over 1 billion Chinese who have zero exposure to English or other foreign languages. How would you 感觉 if I wrote this comment with 中文 sprinkled throughout?

I suppose that the ban is really only on what may be considered proper nouns or designations. In which case, 麦克卡普兰, I'd say that you should try living in 北京 or 上海, work as a 总经理 in a 中外合作 company, and see how it feels to understand mostly everything, but not quite everything.

For software development, Lenovo does not force Americans to learn certain Chinese words in their help files. It is tantamount to cultural imperialism to assume that everyone in China should just accept English (i.e. Latin letters that have nothing to do with pinyin). Just fix the software to make it compatible with both Chinese norms (the vast majority of China, not the folks on the east coast who have more exposure to all things foreign) and the Chinese language. "Windows Update" should just be translated into Chinese. If it's CTRL+K, just use the combination 控制+K or 控+K or whatever it is.

Michael S. Kaplan on 25 Dec 2010 3:14 PM:

Well, it depends. For example, I was able to do rather well with the text you gave, from a combination of some that I knew and the rest that I was able to pick from context. And th words in question are usually product names and technical terms/acronyms that have no glossary term that is in Chinese, where is it is even easier to pick up meaning of the overall text. It is even an interesting way to learn some of those terms! :-)

Michael S. Kaplan on 26 Dec 2010 12:52 AM:

A related issue can be found here.

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2011/01/18 "English being here to stay" isn't the issue, really

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