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Showing posts with the label languages

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 m…

Miss Tschörmänie

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If you're a theoretical chemist with a passable command of German and a secret lust for power, this is the book for you. Miss Tschörmänie (pronounced "Miss Germany") is a comic strip depiction of the life and times of Angela Merkel, the current German chancellor.

The story starts with her early years as a scientist in the East, but really gets going after reunification, when her political career began. She soon signs up with the centre-right CDU party and by 2000 has taken charge. Five years later she has eliminated all other pretenders and become the first female chancellor of Germany. The aim of the book is to show you how she did it.


The story sticks closely to the facts, though there is some room for the authors to speculate about private conversations and thoughts. It's also very respectful to Merkel, who is shown time and again outsmarting her political enemies, both outside the party and within. The only really biting comments come from Gerhard Schröder (her …