Facebook is so “last decade!”

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300 Million People Use WeChat To Text With Strangers, But Most Americans Probably Haven’t Heard Of It

WeChat is a multipurpose messaging app made by Chinese Internet portal company Tencent. The app’s popularity is soaring overseas. WeChat launched in October 2010 and had about 5 million users by May 2011. By January 2013, it had exploded to 300 million users, according to Tech In Asia.

The app has a startling array of features. Users can make video calls and hold live chats with friends, host group chats, scan for strangers to talk to nearby, and so much more. Rumors have been circulating that the app could gain a new shopping feature in the future too, which could be a huge potential revenue generator for Tencent. (more)

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How to Find a Chinese Bride

China Bride Blog

She's Out of My League She’s Out of My League

Dear China Bride Blog,

I just finished watching a movie called She’s Out of  My League. In the movie a guy who is a 5 or a 6 gets the girl who is a 10. Do you think this is possible? I consider myself to be a 5, but if I shower and stuff I could probably be a 6.5 or possibly a 7. The problem is I always go for 10’s. What’s your advice?

Loveless in Lake Wobegon

Dear Loveless,

Dude, it’s a movie! However, you might want to read the following article…

How to Find a Chinese Bride

Step 1
Be serious. Chinese women do not like players either. Their culture is intensely marriage and family oriented.

Step 2
Be stable. You don’t have to be rich (although it helps), but most Chinese women want to know if you own a house…

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Angry Birds, Angry Words

http___web-assets.angrybirds.com_abcom_img_games_223_Icon_download_ab_223x223“What if instead of tabbing over to the web browser in search of some nugget of gossip or news, or opening up a mindless game such as Angry Birds, we could instead scratch the itch by engaging in a meaningful activity, such as learning a foreign language?”

Enjoyed this post.

Angry Words

How to Travel the World and Get Paid to Do It!

The Bucket List
The Bucket List
Is your bucket list full and bank account empty? Perfect. Now’s the time to plan an extended vacation abroad! Sound crazy? Not really. If you have portable skills or residual income, there are many countries where your talents are in demand and your money will stretch a lot further.

Even if you aren’t in the group just mentioned, don’t despair. You may be able to put your ability to speak English and your knowledge of Western culture to practical use. Ever thought of teaching English as a Second Language? Here are the steps.

Step 1

Update your resume. Having a college degree is a definite plus, however there are courses you can take towards certification as an ESL teacher. These courses usually take about one or two months to complete and can often be done online. Check out the Internet to learn more about different types of ESL certification.

Step 2

Place your resume online. There are numerous websites where you can browse ESL jobs and also post your resume. Before you put up personal information, however, be sure to read the website directions and disclaimers.

Two of my favorite ESL sites are ESL Teachers Board and Dave’s ESL Café. By the way, some countries prefer a CV, which is like an expanded resume concentrating on your academic experience.

Step 3

Get your passport. If you’ve never had a passport, you’ll need to apply in person at your nearest passport facility, which is quite often the local U.S. Post Office. Details are available on the official government website: Travel.State.Gov

Step 4

Screen carefully. After you post your resume online, you’ll start getting invitations to teach. Unfortunately, not every invitation you receive may be legitimate. The ESL websites I mentioned in Step 2 have a wealth of information about finding the right teaching position and being safe in the process. Do your homework.

Step 5

Negotiate a contract. This is sometimes easier said than done, however a good way to tackle this chore is to ask the school if you can speak with one or two of their current or former ESL teachers. If the school has nothing to hide, they should be willing to let you do this. If they are reluctant, keep looking.

Step 6

Get ready to travel. Many schools will offer some reimbursement for your travel expenses, so be sure to ask. Travel lightly. If you’ve established contact with another ESL teacher at the same or similar school, ask them what to bring. The best thing you can take along is an open mind.

Tips and Warnings:

In addition to your passport, you may need a visa for travel to certain countries. Once you know which country you will be working in, check out the official website of their Embassy or Consulates for more information.

Prepare yourself for jet lag and culture shock. Perhaps the best preparation you can make is just be aware that you will experience them.

Never put yourself in a position where you don’t have enough money to leave if things don’t work out.

Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. I’ve been living and teaching in China since August, 2004. Every day is an adventure. Good luck and good journey!

Falling Into Friendship

It can happen to anyone, any time, any place. Even on China’s Hainan Island. Or perhaps, especially on Hainan Island.

Article first published as The Furthest Point of Sky and Sea on Blogcritics.

When she stepped onto the bus, there was a sudden shortage of oxygen. Every male passenger sat tall and sucked in his gut. She dug into her pockets and pulled forth a handful of Chinese money. The bus driver daintily extracted the proper amount and dropped it into the glass box.

As she glanced around for a place to sit, every suddenly-taller-gut-sucking man had the same thought. But I had the advantage. I looked Russian.

The bus lurched forward, launching her on a trajectory leading to the empty seat next to me. She sat down and exclaimed something that wasn’t English. I began to pray fervently for the gift of tongues, but no luck. I shrugged. “I don’t speak Russian.”

She looked at me and repeated the phrase. “Da Dong Hai?” The clouds parted and I heard angels singing. Not only did I know what she was saying, but I knew where it was, and best of all, I was going there too.

Yalong Bay
The Furthest Point of Sky and Sea

Da Dong Hai is the middle class beach of Sanya City, on Hainan Island, in the People’s Republic of China. Da Dong Hai is perhaps my favorite place in the whole world. At least it was today.

Her name was Maria, she lives in St. Petersburg, she’s here on vacation, she’s traveling alone, she’s working on her PhD in religion. I gleaned all of this in a few short minutes. She speaks English.

Oh, and there’s more. She’s pregnant. And planning to sleep on the beach because hotel prices have tripled due to Chinese New Year. Do I know any place that sells sleeping bags? I swear what I’m telling you is true.

Suddenly, I had a plan. We would be married and live happily ever after. I know from past experience it probably wasn’t a good plan, but it seemed better than letting her sleep on the beach. I’ve been to Sanya many times and even if I weren‘t pregnant, I don’t think I’d attempt to sleep on the beach. Stay out all night, yes. Sleep on the beach, no.

We arrived at our stop, got off the bus and walked a few short blocks to the Big East Sea. That’s what Da Dong Hai means. On the way, we were approached by the usual number of sunglasses sellers and fruit ladies. Feeling protective, I waved them off.

I’d been skeptical of her claim about the PhD, but as we talked and walked I realized she wasn’t kidding. We spent the afternoon talking and walking. We bought some fruit and ate it as I became her tour guide.

At the far end of the beach, around the bend, is a Chinese naval base. Imagine the look on the officer’s face (as he emerged from his quarters, following his afternoon nap) to find an American man and a Russian woman asking directions. After we were politely escorted off the base, I thought I heard the sound of a firing squad. Just glad it wasn’t us.

Not far down the coastline is the world’s fourth tallest statue. It’s a glistening white, 354 foot tall depiction of the Bodhisattva Guan Yin. It’s the crowning glory of one of the largest Buddhist theme parks in the world. It’s true. I swear. Anyway, she wanted to go there the next day. Would I like to go with her? Perhaps not the world’s silliest question, but certainly among the top 100.

Come to find out, she had one more night at her hotel before the holiday rate kicked in. We made plans to meet for coffee in the morning. Which gives me time to fill you in on the back story.

I teach English in China. I’ve done so since August, 2004. I happened to be in Sanya this time to teach at a winter English camp during January and February. I was sharing an apartment, provided by the school, with four Chinese teachers. All female. I wouldn’t make this up.

Sanya is about as far south as you can go without leaving China. It has three major beach areas: Yalong Bay (for the Jet Set), Da Dong Hai (Bus Set), and Sanya Wan (Local Set). Sanya Phoenix International Airport (SYX/ZJSY) serves travelers with daily flights to Hong Kong and Europe. There are a lot of Russian tourists in Sanya. Many of the store signs and restaurant menus are in Russian, Chinese and English.

The next morning I met Maria in the lobby of her hotel. She’d gotten directions from her Russian travel agent on which buses to take. So, after a leisurely European breakfast, we set out on our adventure of the day.

Ever hear the expression “it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there!?” On the way to our destination we actually passed the end of the world. Literally. The Chinese name is Tianya Haijiao. Tian is sky and Hai is sea. (Remember our Chinese lesson above?) It could be translated as “the furthest point of sky and sea.”

What’s funny is that Tianya Haijiao sort of got it’s name from when the Chinese Emperor would opt for exile over execution. In the olden days, when a noble fell into disfavor he might be banished from the kingdom to this place. Oh, please Br’er Emperor, puh-leeze don’t throw me into that there briar patch!

I wasn’t expecting quite such a hefty entrance fee when we arrived. It was 150 Yuan each, which is roughly $22.5819 USD at this exact moment. Fortunately, she paid for herself.

The Nanshan Guanyin near Sanya
The Guanyin is on a man-made island at the edge of the South China Sea.

After we went in, I feigned interest in the exhibits for about a half hour. She obviously was taking this PhD thing seriously. I told her I wanted to meditate at the base of the Guanyin and she should meet me there when she was ready to leave.

The Guanyin is perched on a man-made island on the edge of the South China Sea. I stripped off as much clothing as I thought I could get away with (Buddhist rhymes with Nudist, after all) and began my swimming ritual. Ah… I think time apart is good for a relationship, don’t you?

As I lay on the beach, gazing up at the Guanyin I had time to reconsider my marriage plans. After all, she really only needed a place to stay until hotel rates came down again. And two of my roommates had already headed home for the Chinese holiday. She could stay in one of their rooms.

And as for her, uh, condition – she would probably make up with her boyfriend sooner or later. And, even though I love children, I’m getting a little stuck in my ways. I made up my mind to let her down gently.

I jumped up, brushed off the sand, pulled on the rest of my clothes and went looking. When I spotted her, I almost reconsidered. Did I mention she takes your breath away? But then I gathered my courage and ran up to her. “Two more hours,” she said. “Okay, take your time,” said I. I returned to my meditation spot.

To wrap this up, we didn’t get married. She took me up on my offer to use my apartment for a couple of days. There was no hanky-panky. Darn. Several months after she flew back to the cold, cold North, I got an e-mail with a picture of her and the baby. Beautiful kid. I think of her from time to time and wonder how she’s doing. Cue music.

Of all the buses, at all the stops, in all the towns, in all the world, she had to get on and sit next to me. Play it again, Sam. I’m not quite finished. Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. Of  all the bus stops, in all the towns, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ll always have Sanya.

I’m telling you the truth. I swear.

How Do Chinese Use An English Computer Keyboard?

“With thousands of individual characters, ever wonder how a Chinese person sends an email?

Business cards in China are offered and accepted with both hands. It’s a sign of courtesy and respect. After a couple years of exchanging cards, I’d managed to fill a rather large desk drawer with them. One day a fit of efficiency overtook me and I decided to go in search of a Rolodex or business card organizer. It took longer than I expected; most things do in China.

It wasn’t until I’d made my purchase and returned home that it dawned on me – there is no Chinese “alphabet.” At least, not in the way we think of one. Hence, no way to organize most of my cards. Duh. Which brings me to today’s topic, “How do Chinese use an English computer keyboard?”

Firstly, there are such things as Chinese computer keyboards. However, they’re not standardized and not widely used. There are also writing pad interfaces that work well for Chinese characters. However, most Chinese rely on software to change their keystrokes into Chinese text.

Chinese Keyboard
Chinese and English Keyboard

Perhaps the two most  common software transcription methods in mainland China are Wubi and Pinyin. Wubi means “five pen” or “five stroke” and is based on the idea that Chinese characters can be categorized with five fundamental pen strokes. In contrast, the Pinyin method is based on pronunciation of Chinese “syllables.” Each method has advantages and drawbacks.

In it’s simplest form, Wubi could be input with just the number pad of the keyboard: one for horizontal strokes, two for vertical strokes, three for downward right-to-left strokes, four for dot strokes or downward left-to-right strokes, and five for all other strokes. To utilize this method, users must be familiar with the correct order of strokes, which is actually fairly easy to learn.

Once a user has input the correct strokes in the correct order, Wubi software presents a number of possible Chinese characters from which to choose. This method is probably most suited to individuals with Chinese language background.

Pinyin, on the other hand, is a method more suited to individuals with an English language background. Pinyin breaks Chinese down into “Romanized” syllables. However, because Chinese is a tonal language, the user must also be able to select the correct tone for each syllable.

Mandarin Chinese has four basic tones. They are: first tone – “high and level,” second tone – “rising,” third tone – “falling then rising,” and fourth tone – “falling.” There is also a fifth tone which can be thought of as “neutral.” Cantonese is more complex, with between 6 and 9 tones depending upon the dialect.

A classic example of the difference tones make is with the syllable “ma.” With first tone the word means mother, with second tone the word means hemp, with third tone the word is horse, with fourth tone it means scold, and with the fifth tone the word becomes an interrogative often used at the end of a sentence. Here is an example of a “silly sentence” using the word ma.

Pinyin: māma mà mǎ de má ma?
English: “Is Mother scolding the horse’s hemp?”
(source: Wikipedia)

How to Understand the Difference Between Translation and Interpretation

Can you speak Chinese?

It’s likely that at various times in your life you need to communicate with a person who does not speak the same language as you. Sometimes you can make yourself understood through simple body language and gesture; you manage to get through the moment and life goes on as usual.

At other times, however, it’s important, if not crucial, that the other person understand your exact meaning. It is helpful, therefore, to know something about the art and science of language to language conversion. Here are a few things you should know:

-The words translation and interpretation are often used interchangeably. Technically, this is incorrect. As a rule, translation is written, whereas interpretation is oral. The exception is interpretation using sign language, which can be thought of as visual.

-Professional translators usually only translate into their native language. This is because the finished document should be error free and grammatically correct. A professional translator must have excellent editing, thinking and writing skills.

-There are two types of professional interpretation (not including sign language). The first is called simultaneous interpretation. The second is called consecutive interpretation.

-In simultaneous interpretation the interpretation is done at the same time a speaker is speaking. A good example of this is a speech at the United Nations. Because of the demands of this type of work, simultaneous interpreters often work in pairs or teams.

-In consecutive interpretation, the speaker stops talking periodically to allow time for the interpreter to communicate the meaning to the other party. Quite often, the interpreter will take notes or use some method of shorthand to remember what is being said.

-American Sign Language or ASL is a form of interpretation for deaf and hearing impaired persons. It uses gestures and hand signs to communicate meaning. Although there are some elements of English within ASL, it should be considered a distinct language with it’s own grammar, syntax and even regional dialects.

-Modern translation software is often useful for simple translation purposes, however it should never be relied upon for translation of legal, financial, or business documents, or other works of permanence.

-There are a number of certification agencies for companies and individuals who offer Translation and Interpretation Services. It is a good practice to ask if an agency or individual is certified and by whom.

It has been estimated that there are approximately 6700 different languages in the world. By far, the most common language spoken is Mandarin Chinese, followed by Spanish, English, Hindi/Urdu, and Arabic in approximately that order. On the Internet, the most common language is English, followed by Chinese, Spanish, Japanese and Portuguese.