Sunday, September 23, 2007

Chinese and the media

The recent two cases involving the Chinese seem to have revealed an inability of the media to deal with Chinese names. Many of those who have a career in reading and writing the news seem not to have any advice on how to approach them. Regularly, the names have been so butchered that at times it was hard to know who was who.

Neither does there seem to be a standard convention for the ordering of Chinese names. In the recent article, “Pumpkin case: Grandmother's anger at police”, the grandmother is called Liu Xiao Ping using Chinese name ordering (surname first) yet in the same article ‘Pumpkin’ is called Qian Xun Xue with English name ordering (surname last). In the Saturday Herald, a man by the name of Sun Anguang was mentioned; Sun was his family name yet in the article he was referred to as Mr Anguang! The solution is easy: if it is a Chinese name, use the Chinese order (e.g. Hu Jintao); if the name has an English component, use the English order (e.g. Pansy Wong).

Perhaps this is a sign of the inability of media outlets to take on journalists of other ethnicities and language backgrounds.

(I've sent this to the Letters to the Editor at the Herald)

2 comments:

simon said...

The media has done a good job of confusing things so I have no idea who's who with all the different name orders, pronounciations etc. Don't expect them to deal with tones, but a little consistancy would go a long way.Given there's only a few letters that have significantly different pronounciation in Chinese like Q and X which happen to be common in names, if the mainstream meadia invested in getting these right it might be worthwile. Atleast in this case those involved are mainland Chinese, imagine the linguistic complexities the media would face if the wife or husband came from Taiwan!Probably would have Chan ShuShu and Qian XueXue then or something like that.

Crypticity said...

I didn't think about the Taiwanese issue (or Hong Kong) for that matter. How would they know the difference? You make a good point but then again, it does seem that Mainland Chinese are in the news more frequently (I offer no analysis).

I actually wanted to add the pronunciation of X, Q and Zh to my letter to the editor, and it was in the original, but I was almost twice the word limit and so pared it down, and in the process sliced off the pronunciation guide.