Maria Holland

Google and Chinese

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Class is so boring, but I always end up with so much to say about it.  How does that work?

Today we were reading the story of how one couple fell in love, and the teacher asked us what it meant when the man took the woman home.  There was scattered awkward laughter as we tried to figure out what on earth she meant, as she surely couldn’t mean that . . . turns out it meant there would be a second date.

Also, we learned verb for making coffee is 冲, not 泡.  You 泡 tea because it has to soak in water for so long, but because Chinese mostly use instant coffee, you just have to 冲 it, or pour boiling water over it.  I could just feel Jelle, the coffee enthusiast sitting next to me, cringe in his seat. 

In oral class, the text was a transcript of a symposium of teachers, parents, and education specialists concerning a kid who ran away because of problems at school.  He didn’t do well on a test and was forced to stand up in front of the class to 做检查, or “do an examination”.  We didn’t know what this ‘examination’ meant, though.  One Indonesian student said at her school, it would mean having your bag searched, but the teacher was totally appalled by the idea and said that that was unacceptable and would never happen.  Apparently what they meant was self-criticism, in which the student lists personal faults, character flaws, and things that they’ve done wrong – in front of your teacher and classmates.  Cause that’s totally fine. 

The assembled experts were discussing which option was better – publicly listing all students by test score, or not sharing any information on ranking.  I raised my hand to say that in America, students are usually told their individual ranking (by percentile or bracket) but don’t know anyone else’s score; this gives students and parents an idea of how they’re doing in comparison to their peers but maintains the privacy necessitated both by law and common sense.  The teacher said that wouldn’t work, that there were only these two options.  ‘Kay, whatevs.


I have a confession – I really don’t like Apple products.  They’re infuriatingly simple and, in my experience, don’t even perform their limited functions that well.  For example, iTunes decided a few months ago to stop playing Fireflies by Owl City, just stopping if I click on it.  I deleted the song and now iTunes won’t let me re-add it.  Seriously, you have one function – to play music.  I accept that maintaining my music collection and selecting the music I want you to play is going to be inordinately inconvenient, but if I click on a song I think even you should be able to play it. 

But I adore Google.  I have ever since I discovered Gmail back in 2006, but I discover new reasons every day.  It keeps our love young. 

For instance, I knew that Google Maps could tell you how to get around the Twin Cities metro area on public transportation, but I just discovered yesterday that it can do the same thing in Xiamen, China!  Here’s how to get to my tailor.

And, despite having used Google’s Pinyin input method for typing Chinese for nearly a year, I’m just now figuring out how cool it is.  I wrote the other day about the regular updates to their word database, but today I took a look at their brief introduction to the program.  (The biggest – one might say ‘only’ – downside to the Google IME is that it is entirely in Chinese.  Thus I am only now getting around to perusing its functions.) 

  • If you type the pinyin for 时间, one of the options is the current time: 23:57.  Same with 日期: 2010-06-07.
  • If you don’t know how to spell (and therefore type) a character, you can describe it by its components and the program will figure it out.  Type ‘u’ then 人 and 九 and you get 仇.  Type ‘u’, 折, and 言, and you get 誓.  (Note: helps to know the pinyin of the components . . .)
  • By typing ‘i’ (which isn’t the first letter of any Chinese syllable), you enter a different mode that can do a lot of things with numbers.  Type in a number, and the program will produce the Chinese for it, in both normal characters and the crazy ones used in banks.  Population of the U.S. (307,006,550): 三亿零七百万六千五百五十 or 叁亿零柒佰万陆仟伍佰伍拾 . . . or 三〇七〇〇六五五〇 if you want to go really simple. 
  • Follow that ‘i’ by ‘js’ (for 计算, or calculations) and it will give you the value of any expression you enter.  ‘ijs3*cos(pi)’ yields –3, and ‘ijssqrt(1000)’ yields 31.622776601684. 
  • If you press CTRL + G while typing in the input box, Google will use your text as a search query and take you a page with the results.


I went out this evening to enjoy the gorgeous weather – a rare day with sun and breeze, no rain, and almost no smog.  I went to Bailuzhou Park, where I walked around a bit and then sat down on the water. 


It was one of the most peaceful moments I’ve experienced since coming to China.

Kind of ironic, actually, because for 10 million high school students across China, today is one of the most stressful days of their lives.  Today is Day 1 of the annual 高考, the all-important test that determines your entire life which college you get into. 

  1. Okay – I don’t care how good an ME you are, you have got to write a book about your year in China, your life, anything… You are the best, funniest writer I’ve read since P.J. O’Rourke…and you need to look him up if you have never read anything by him. We have one of his books here at home, and one of your aunts/uncles has our second book by him (I’m just not sure which person it is). [Disregard this post. Mom says you’ve read PJ already…]

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