Sunday, 14 October 2012

Remember, remember

Just noticed the US presidential election is actually on my birthday this time round, the first time that's happened since 1984. I think I've got the Panini sticker album for that one somewhere. Back then the going exchange rate was 3 shiny Mondales to the Lineker.

And yes, I will ask Birthday Santa (for it is he) to re-elect Obama. So stop worrying about the polls folks.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Chinese Room

The Chinese Room is a thought experiment conceived by the American philosopher John Searle, in which you watch the infamous 2003 film The Room, then translate it into Chinese. Searle postulated that the act of translation could not make the dialogue any worse than it already is.

It was on the sixth viewing of The Room that one of its deepest secrets became clear to me: every scene resembles the sort of highly contrived dialogue found only in language learning textbooks. I can only imagine that when Tommy Wiseau first studied humanity on his home planet, his textbook convinced him that all human interaction consisted of people meeting, greeting and leaving in quick succession, like talking billiard balls.

As an example of Searle's thought experiment, I present the Flower Shop Scene translated into bad beginner's level Mandarin (from bad beginner's level English):

约翰尼: 你好.
Yuēhànní: Nǐ hǎo.

售货员: 你要什么?
Shòuhuòyuán: Nǐ yào shénme?

约翰尼: 十二朵红色的玫瑰.
Yuēhànní: Shíèr duo hóngsè de méiguī.

售货员: 你好, 约翰尼. 我不知道是你. 给你.
Shòuhuòyuán: Nǐ hǎo, Yuēhànní. Wǒ bù zhīdào shì nǐ. Gěi nǐ.

约翰尼: 这是我. 多少钱?
Yuēhànní: Zhè shì wǒ. Duōshǎo qián?

售货员: 十八美元.
Shòuhuòyuán: Shíbā měiyuán.

约翰尼: 给你. 不用找了. 你好, 小犬.
Yuēhànní: Gěi nǐ. Bùyòng zhǎole. Nǐ hǎo, xiǎoquǎn.

售货员: 你是我最喜欢的顾客.
Shòuhuòyuán: Nǐ shì wǒ zuì xǐhuan de gùkè.

约翰尼: 多谢. 再见!
Yuēhànní: Duōxiè. Zàijiàn!

售货员: 再见!
Shòuhuòyuán: Zàijiàn!