Sunday, 8 August 2010

引導式教育 and 引导式教育

Searching and understanding

Machine translation has progressed in leaps and bounds. It is still not like human translation (it has no 'soul' or, to put it differently, it goes for meaning rather than sense) but I find that I can refer to it more and more. It helps of course if you know something of the languages that you are moving between (and I include in that your own!) and also if you know something of what is being said, both enormous advantages when you have to be 'creative' in your translation to move on from meaning to sense.

I used to think that it helped if the two languages were linguistically close. Thus things would be far easier if translating between, say, French and English than between Hungarian and... well, anything! To some degree this principle holds, but recent (to me) happy experiences of translating into English from materials written in Hebrew and in Chinese characters makes me wonder what other factors might be involved (for example up-to-datedness of the algorithms, or factors inherent the languages themselves).

Of course there is another possible factor: the less you know or even recognise of the language that you are translating from then the less likely you are to see how wildly mistaken you might in what you come up with!

Great fun anyway and I am pleased to see that Susie Mallett and Norman Perrin have grasped this nettle and caught the bug – see their cheerful discussion in the Comments at the foot of yesterday's posting on Conductive World:

See also Norman's posting on his own blog:


The title of this post (if I am lucky - and maybe someone will correct me if I have it wrong) is "Conductive Education" in Chinese.
I took a very simple pleasure, prompted by following a link in a posting on Andrew Sutton's blog, in using Google Translate, to work it out.
If you reverse the process, and ask Google Translate to translate "Conductive Education" into Chinese, you can then click on the 'speaker' symbol and have it read aloud to you in Chinese. I wonder how this sounds to a Chinese ear?
Isn't the internet fun!
(BTW, if you ask Google Translate to translate "Conductive Education" into Hungarian, it comes up with "Konduktív nevelés" – best re-translated back into English as "conductive upbringing")
Yes, the Internet can be wonderful fun. I only wish that I know how to use it better so that I could enjoy it the more. I can at least, however, pass on my own few small tips for those who would like to share in the fun of a first exploration of 'Conductive Education in Chinese' on the Internet.

Yes Norman, you are right, the characters 引导式教育 do indeed represent 'Conductive Education', but things are rather more complicated than that. For a start, it is somewhat culturally insensitive to write 'read aloud to you in Chinese...'!

Chinese languages

Chinese languages are spoken by an awful lot of people! Most of these speak Mandarin, which is also the official language of the Chinese People's Republic, but there are important 'minority' languages too, (I put 'minority languages' in inverted commas because they may be spoken by tens, even hundreds of millions of people).

Hong Kong is is the south east of China. Its language is Cantonese. So is the language of Singapore and most Chinese people in Europe, North America and other countries.

Chinese characters

Put aside here all consideration of the phonology and structures of these languages as spoken, Suffice it here to mention two cardinal aspects of Chinese writing.
  • There is no Chinese alphabet. Chinese writing consists of thousands of distinctive ideographs that do not relate to the sound of the word. 
  • It is of course more complicated than that. Look out for the distinction between 'significs' and 'phonetics' if you really want to get further into this.
  • The same ideographs are intelligible to people speaking different dialects and languages (even to a degree to Japanese-speakers), even though the spoken forms may be mutually unintelligible.
There are further complications to this.
  • There are 'traditional' characters and there are 'simplified ones'.
  • There are also variants in Chinese communities overseas.
  • There have been attempts to create Romanised alphabetic systems (Pinyin and others).
I have but a caricature, schoolboy understanding of all this, as outlined above, but that probably suffices for the purpose of helping me to dip into the Chinese CE literature by means of the Internet and its translation machines. 

If you want a quick headache, try the Wikipedia articles on Chinese characters and on Pinyin:

引導式教育 and 引导式教育

Norman was right. 引導式教育 is how 'Conductive Education is represented 'in Chinese'. His example shows how this is written in traditional characters. This particular expression is written only slightly differently in the simplified form: 引导式教育.

You can search the Internet using either form. Just cut and paste in the usual manner into the search engine of your choice. Do not do what Norman did, though. You should treat the expression as you would in searching for “Conductive Education” or its equivalent in any language: put it in inverted commas. If you do not, then you will be buried in results.

Even if you do , however, you will still run up an impressive tally of results for both forms:

Traditional:  "引導式教育", more than half a million results

Simplified:   "引导式教育", slightly less that half a million

This is somewhat less than the nearly four million that Susie reports having chalked up when she searched without using inverted commas! It is still more than enough to be getting on with!

My own impression is that searching with the simplified form will bring up rather more results from the Mainland, while the traditional will bring up rather more from Hong Kong and Taiwan. I could be wrong.

Along the way you will find that Chinese websites tend to be far prettier that Western ones, with lots of colour and decoration, even in much official and academic material. That's fun too,

Remember, you will not necessarily know the language of your results (though you may be able to guess from geographical context, if this matters to you). You may be looking at texts from speakers of Mandarin or of Cantonese.

I do not know how 'Conductive Education' is represented in Pinyin. Maybe somebody could illuminate.

(Then there is calligraphy, but that is something else!)

What does it sound like?

What does it sound like? This depends upon what language is being represented. Norman reports how Google Translate plays this phrase back 'in Chinese'. I suspect that this might be in Mandarin..

Chinese languages are tonal, Cantonese particularly so. The untutored Western ear cannot 'hear' this, so a word of warning from my own limited experience. I recall a lovely afternoon in at the Jockey Club Conductive Learning Centre in Hong Kong, with Joan O'Connor and a group of exceedingly jolly ladies from SAHK. Trying to be culturally sensitive (not my strongest attribute) I asked them to demonstrate to me what 引導式教育 sounds like (this would of course be in Cantonese). One of the ladies said it out to me, very carefully – and equally carefully, I said it back to them.

Hoots of cheery laughter all round, and Joan O'Connor gently explained to me that I had just said 'Indian-style dog food'.

What's it all about?

Now here is the umpteen-million dollar question.

I spent ages in Hong Kong discussing this with Ivan Su, Joan O'Connor and others. 

  • What does 引導式教育 mean when you see it written in which ever script, and when people say it in whatever language? 
  • And more fundamentally, what is it that people practice, what it is that they do, that they use this expression to denote?
(Come to that you might ask, what does it mean when people speak of l'education conductive, la educación conductivaeducaçaõ condutiva, konduktive Förderung, konduktív nevelés,  кондуктивное воспитание, etc., etc?  Apologies if I have not mentioned your own particular language here but the list is getting rather long!)

This is the most important question to be unravelled at the East meets West Conductive Education Congress in Hong Kong in December, and one that will need considerable preparation and study beforehand if it is to be properly addressed.

Dream on...

There are presently 118 days till the Congress begins. For an update on this, see the top of this page.

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