The President of China, Hu Jintao, visited the US this past week. Rush Limbaugh, one of talk radio’s well known characters, mocked the Chinese language, complaining that it wasn’t being simultaneously translated. Here is the video:
I think the last time I saw that type of response to another language, I was in 3rd grade. However, it was an 8 year old who delivered that brand of mocking, which is neither funny or appropriate.
Clearly, Mr. Limbaugh needs a full blown cross-cultural training on the Chinese language and culture. That would be too much to deliver here. However, here are 5 tips for Mr. Limbaugh, should he run into the Chinese President:
1) Approximately one-fifth of the world speaks some form of Chinese as its native language, making it the language with the most native speakers. Mandarin Chinese is the official language of the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China and Singapore. It is spoken by 867.2 million people worldwide and ranks first as the most widely spoken language in the world.
2) The various dialects of spoken Chinese use tones. Some areas of China (in the North) will only use as many as 3 tones, while in Southern China, they can use between 6 or 10 tones as they speak.
3) Chinese is the oldest written language in the world with roughly 6,000 years of history. There are over 20,000 Chinese characters, though only approximately 3,000-4,000 are necessary to read a newspaper.
4) The Chinese language has no verb conjugations. Verbs are not modified as a result of tense. Adverbs such as “before, yesterday, previously” are used to denote the past tense, and “in the future, tomorrow” are used to denote the future tense.
5) Here is a well done, short video that will teach you (and hopefully Mr. Limbaugh) a few words in Mandarin: