Chinese Corner

Don’t You Call Me That

How an ancient name for China became a modern epithet – Eveline Chao

For a few years of my life, the bane of my existence was having to liaise with the government censor at the Chinese-registered, English-language business magazine I edited in Beijing. However, it must be said that, aside from the minor detail that her very existence was a primary source of all frustration in my life and a potential affront to everything I believed in, my censor was pretty chill. I was always questioning the changes she made to our work, and though she didn't have to, she went to great lengths to explain them. (Though of course, it was in her best interest to bring me round to her view on things.) And the side bonus was that through her explanations, I always learned something fascinating about China.


Chinese Corner

Name That Tune

Can learning a tonal language make you a better musician? – Eveline Chao

The part of the brain responsible for producing and understanding speech is called Broca’s area. As it happens, that area is also responsible for processing music.

There’s a lot of research suggesting that musical training also brings language-related benefits. One is that musicians learn second languages faster than non-musicians.

Chinese Corner

Seeing Sini

The origins of Chinese Islamic calligraphy – Eveline Chao

The next time you’re in a Chinese mosque, look up. If you’re lucky, the entrance will be adorned with Sini, a Chinese-ified version of Arabic script. (And if you won’t be near a Chinese mosque any time soon, check out Professor Dru Gladney’s photos of Sini and other Islamic art in China.) Sini appears in most mosques in eastern China, and a bit in the northwestern provinces of Shaanxi and Gansu. You’ll see it used on the tasmiya, or invocation of prayer, hanging above the entrance or in the prayer hall, and sometimes on the shahada, a profession of faith hanging in a niche that indicates the direction of prayer.

Chinese Corner

Mum’s the Word

To learn Mandarin like a child, listen first – Eveline Chao

Editor’s note: If you’re resolving to pick up Mandarin this year, Eveline Chao has some encouraging insight about language acquisition for you in today’s Chinese Corner column. No matter where you are along the learning path, we’d love to answer your burning questions about Chinese. Send your linguistic quandaries to [email protected] with the subject “Chinese Corner,” or tweet a #chinesequestion at Liz Carter @withoutdoing or myself @annemhdc. – Anne Henochowicz

Ask enough expat parents, and you’ll eventually find someone whose child, upon moving to China, spent months as a near-mute. Then one day out of the blue, they began spouting fluent streams of Mandarin.