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--- On Thu, 10/18/12, Douglas Koller <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> From: Douglas Koller <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: [CONLANG] Chengyu / Set Phrases (was: Yemoran Expressions)
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Thursday, October 18, 2012, 3:38 AM
> > Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2012 07:14:48
> -0700
> > From: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: Re: Chengyu / Set Phrases (was: Yemoran
> Expressions)
> > To: [log in to unmask]
>  
> > --- On Tue, 10/16/12, Zach Wellstood <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
>  
> > > Yeah, but the ones I looked at I could basically
> understand
> > > so I think that
> > > Google translate won't distort them TOO much...
> It's
> > > unfortunate that there
> > > isn't really a cohesive dictionary of chengyu, but
> they
> > > don't really seem
> > > to be something that gets focused on when learning
> Mandarin
> > > as an L2. 
>  
> > As I hinted at previously, I see these more as matter
> for a course on
> > folklore rather than language per se. Too bad there's
> not a good dictionary
> > of the things.
> 
> Maybe this is one?:
> http://cy.5156edu.com/

Dunno. The only thing I could understand was the Hyatt ad at the top of
the page. Cos the rest was in bloody Chinese! I think I also hinted that
a source in English would be a good thing! ;))))

> But there are plenty of good hardcopy chengyu dictionaries
> to be had out there. 

In English? I only know about a dozen characters and perhaps half a dozen
words / phrases. Not quite enough to make use the above, or the other
Chinese source cited the other day!

> Some classified by character, some by
> backstory, some, à la Toastmasters, by subject matter
> (*heeeeeeere's* a chengyu you can use when...). My
> Chinese-English-Chinese chengyu dictionary is good, but not
> flawless, and that's only because it tries to match Chinese
> and English chengyu for chengyu which is not entirely
> possible (and because I don't think the compilers, older HK
> Chinese/ESL speakers, consulted any native English speakers
> ("Er, I'm not quite sure that's what *I* take away as the
> lesson of 'A rolling stone gathers no moss.'"). (Translation
> Angst! Waaah!)

Sounds like a step in the right direction anyway.

> > Earlier, someone not Padraic said:
> > Well, I'm not sure why they would get much focus. 

Actually, I did say that!

> If it were just "a stitch in time saves nine" kinds of
> stuff, I would take your point. But they can be and are more
> than mere snippets of folksy wisdom. They can be used to
> describe situations and hit common historico-cultural
> touchstones, big here, in ways that "rearranging the
> deckchairs on the Titanic" only aspires to.

Sure, but there are many more historical and cultural phrases out there. 
Already mentioned casting the die. Rearranging deck chairs is a good one, 
as are crossing the rubicon, picket's last stand, I shall return, etc, etc.

> Anecdotal
> evidence in this thread that certain Chinese, for whatever
> reason, have pooh-poohed or dismissed chengyu to the
> contrary, *my* (albeit equally anecdotal) experience has
> been that even if they're not explicitly intoned every
> waking moment of the day, chengyu crackle off in the
> background of daily Chinese discourse. And the almost
> magical concision of the four-character format that may
> fascinate us is not lost on the natives, either. It is fully
> appreciated generally how much chengyu add to the Chinese
> tapestry. Using chengyu skillfully can be *a* benchmark of
> good Chinese writing (else why would there be desk reference
> chengyu dictionaries à la Roget's Thesaurus?),  and
> trust me on this one, as a foreigner, nonchalantly dropping
> an appropriate chengyu at the appropriate time will get you
> the same tittering glee or gaping, whispered "hwa!" you
> would get if you pulled the ace of hearts out from behind
> someone's ear.

I think that situation applies in English as well. But it does sound as
if this is more of a thing in Chinese, though.
 
> Now all of that having been said, I don't think I would
> devote entire *units* in CSL classes to them or treat them
> as something to "cover", per se. 

Perhaps not unitS -- but some kind of mention does seem in order. To ignore
chengyu for CSL students is just like ignoring the set phrases and other
idioms for ESL students. Either way, the student loses out because he is 
being hampered in his coming to understand a different language and its 
associated culture(s). I am sure that a whole course could be devoted to 
the topic in either language!

> But there's no reason, for
> example, why when you learned the character for "dragon" in
> your character textbook, you couldn't get "Duke Ye Liked
> Dragons" introduced to you (you would most likely have those
> four characters under your belt at that point). Or perhaps
> at the end of each unit in your textbook, they could throw
> in one or two that might be of interest. 

Exactly.

> Or (I don't know if
> CSL textbooks have gotten to the colorful scratch-n-sniff
> levels of high school French or Spanish textbooks yet -- it
> was pretty Spartan when *I* was in school: typewritten with
> hand drawings) maybe one of those brightly colored cultural
> bubbles at the bottom of the page, so that instead of a
> color photo of Janine and her friends at a sidewalk café
> with the caption: "French teens have 'mercredi' afternoons
> off from school so they can be seen having 'un coca' at
> popular spots near 'le lycée' or maybe at 'MacDo'", you
> could do a chengyu blurb: "Mr. Chen is alluding to a story
> from the Tang Dynasty where...".

The little videos at one of the chengyu sites already mentioned might
serve that purpose as well.

Padraic

> Kou