The Nanfang / Blog

Chinese Pedestrians Have No Problem Obeying Laowai Traffic Warden

Posted: 09/19/2014 9:15 am

expat traffic warden zhuzhou henan chengguan

A 21 year-old expat from the UK named Leah has become Henan’s newest pedestrian traffic warden responsible for herding pedestrians in the city of Zhuzhou and ensuring traffic laws are maintained, reports Yangtse.

Like many cities, Zhuzhou has a problem with pedestrians that don’t follow signals at intersections and end up congesting traffic — and it may have found its solution in Leah.

Though Leah has only a limited grasp of the Chinese language, her “foreignness” compels city residents to follow her command where they would normally ignore their fellow countryman.

Leah and her friend Ewan recently graduated from university and had been in Zhuzhou looking for work as English teachers for a month. After being hired as a warden, Leah immediately went to task memorizing the important phrases of her job. So far, she can only say things like:

  • “Hello, please be aware and abide by traffic regulations.”
  • “Please be aware and comply with civilized etiquette.”
  • “I love Zhuzhou, and I hope we can both make this city into a beautiful place.”

At first blush, perhaps it would seem unlikely for a Chinese person to follow the commands of a foreigner that can’t converse in Chinese nor is intimately familiar with its local customs. However, an unnamed resident sums up why they listen to her:

As there are international friends present, how can we (residents) illegally cross the road without feeling any shame?

The societal construct the Zhuzhou chengguan is employing is “face”, the need to maintain respect from others. If a Zhuzhou pedestrian were to illegally run a red light in the presence of “normal” Chinese chengguan, they wouldn’t risk losing face as much because they wouldn’t care about the reaction.

However, if this was done in the presence of Leah, a foreigner, the Chinese would risk losing face to the entire outside world she represents. Furthermore, the face lost wouldn’t just be his or her own, but the entire country, which the offender represents.

I mean, just what would Leah think? Of China, no less.

expat traffic warden zhuzhou henan chengguan

Photo: Yangtse


Learn How to Laugh with a Lesson In Western Internet Jargon

Posted: 09/17/2014 12:40 pm

yue minjun laughing Do you know the difference between “Ha”, “Haha”, and “Hahaha+”?

As a native English speaker you probably haven’t noticed it, but there are seven distinct ways to properly convey laughter on the internet. For those of you not in on the downlow, here is a lesson on how to laugh—the Western way.

This lesson by i21st teaches everyone interested in improving their ability to speak on the internet with a “laowai“, as China Daily puts it. It differentiates between the different uses of “Ha” and their respective intensities of laughter. The lesson is as follows, coupled with examples provided by The Nanfang:

Ha: Use when you don’t really find something funny, and you want to make that fact obvious. The lesson points out under normal circumstances you’d use “This is no laughing matter!” and “Was that a joke?”, but that this is another way to convey this sentiment.

No example is provided, but according to the previous rule, it may go something like this:

  • Your joke about a crime against humanity is atrocious, ha.
  • Ha, the humanity.

Haha: Use when you don’t really find something funny, but you would like to be polite. This is also used to fake a laugh.

Our examples based upon this rule:

  • Haha, I laughed, so what about this favor I’d like you to do for me?
  • Your children are adorable and look exactly like their father, haha.

Hahaha: use when their text made you smile. This is the equivalent of “It’s so funny.”

Our example based upon this rule:

  • Hahaha, my mouth is full of milk.

Hahahaha+: use when you sincerely laughed.

Our examples based upon this rule:

  • Hahahaha+, I laughed out loud!
  • That drew a sincere and hearty laugh from the bowels of my body, hahahaha+!

HAHA+: one of the few exceptions to the no-caps rule. Use when you find something hysterical. Other expressions used to convey this sentiment is “Laugh our heads off,” and “Laugh like a drain”.

Our example based upon this rule:

  • HAHA+, capslock is unable to properly convey the laughter which is seizing control of my body!

LOL: Stands for “laugh out loud”. Use when you want the sincerity of your laughter to be a mystery. Did you really laugh out loud? Nobody knows! You’re so mysterious!

Our examples based upon this rule:

  • I’m not telling if I thought that was funny, LOL!
  • LOL, I may or may not have found that to be humorous!

So, to recap, here are the lesson’s seven stages of laughter as used by Westerners on the internet:

  • Ha: used to dispute
  • Haha: fake, used to be polite
  • Hahaha: sincere, but not actual laughter; a smile
  • Hahahaha+: actual laughter that can be heard
  • HAHA+: extreme laughter
  • LOL: used to obfuscate your true laughter

We’re all for the accumulation of knowledge by curious Chinese English language learners, but we would think that speaking a language is less about memorizing vocabulary for specific contexts than it is raising one’s comprehension and grammar to allow for conversation in any context. Also, even though acronyms are A-OK, there’s nothing wrong with using English to write out your thoughts, as in “I laughed out loud.”

Still, i21st is very clear in its lesson on these different usages of the word “Ha”, so much so that it provides a clear pictorial example of how to use “Haha”, the term you use when you don’t find something funny, but are still trying to be polite:

haha nelson simpsons

The finger pointing is for advanced users.

Photos: i21st, ourcityourart


Shenzhen Breaks New Ground with Senior Appointment of a Non-Chinese

Posted: 09/3/2014 4:23 pm

south university science technologyShenzhen looks to internationalize its education system with the appointment of its first ever non-Chinese vice-principal.

Dr Elisabeth Montgomery will serve as the vice-principal at the Experimental School of South University of Science and Technology of China, a brand new elementary school, reports the Shenzhen Daily.

Montgomery describes international education as an amalgamation between Chinese and Western curricula that can invigorate students’ innate creativity at an early age. Montgomery said,

Students will have an environment of global classrooms with more interactions, and they will become aware of different cultures, not only of American culture, but from many places around the world, so they can have early education about what the world is and have incentives to explore more by themselves, which is also key to our education.

It’s reported that Montgomery has experience with local primary schools because her daughter attends Nantou Primary School, and that she has some Chinese language ability as a way to speak to students and staff.

The experimental school currently has a student body of 96 students, which are separated into 24 students for each classroom

Photo: Sina


CCTV Investigates Sketchy English Teaching Industry in China

Posted: 09/3/2014 9:48 am

undercover english teaching cctv report

English teachers in China are now finding themselves in the government’s crosshairs.

CCTV went undercover to investigate a language school in Harbin, Heilongjiang and found many schools hired teachers who didn’t have proper teaching or employment certificates. This is obvious to many of us who live and Cracwork in China, and has been going on for years. But the new attention from state media indicates a crackdown may be coming.

The TV report said all foreign teachers must apply for a Foreign Expert Certificate from the Bureau of Foreigner Expert Affairs from their school, and a work visa provided by the local PSB in order to be permitted to work in China.

undercover english teaching cctv report


The crackdown on illegal English teachers is nothing new. Last August, “several” teachers at English training schools in Nanshan District, Shenzhen were arrested for working illegally. And yet, more teachers continue to stream in to meet the high demand for language learning. Just one month after the previous raid, the local Shenzhen government revealed an initiative to hire 175 English teachers for placement in 125 public schools.

Still, here’s some good advice: no matter what your school says, make sure you are properly certified.

Here’s the CCTV report:

For more on new labor laws enacted last year, here’s a link.

undercover english teaching cctv report

[h/t Lost Laowai]

Photo: screenshots from Youtube


Wife Beater and Crazy English Founder Li Yang Converts to Buddhism

Posted: 07/30/2014 9:06 am

li yang buddhismNotorious Chinese internet personality, news maker and founder of Crazy English Li Yang has converted to Buddhism, reports Beijing Youth Daily.

Li Yang became a Buddhist at the Shaolin Temple located in Dengfeng, Henan Province where he was bestowed his new Buddhist name, Yan Yi.

As part of his conversion, Li announced his intention to help the temple learn English to better help them connect with the outside world, and donated 10,000 English books.

kim lee li yang domestic abuse

Long known as the charismatic leader of Crazy English, a company that encouraged its English students to actively “lose face” in order to conquer this foreign language, Li gained infamy when his Amercian wife and Crazy English co-founder Kim Lee posted pictures online in 2011 that exposed her as a victim of domestic abuse, something Li vehemently denied until he finally admitted it online.

Among many quotable statements Li made to the press about beating his wife, he said he did it because he believed ”a man’s career is more important than his family,” and he needed to “educate” her, something that would be supported by the Chinese Communist government.

Li’s conversion to Buddhism isn’t the first time he has publicly changed religions. When Kim Lee was actively trying to divorce him, Li refused to sign the divorce papers, citing his conversion to the Muslim religion in November of yang

Kim Lee was eventually granted a divorce, winning a US $1.9 million settlement and becoming a role model for battered women in China.

Photo: jiangsu.china, sohu,


Weekend Gallery: English Grammar Tree

Posted: 06/8/2014 10:40 am

English grammar tree As English teachers, we try our best to guide our students and improve their English. However, we can’t visualize what is going through the head of an English student when he or she is speaking English… unless, of course, the student is trying to envision a English grammar tree.

These diagrams have been kicking around QQ boards and the Chinese interwebs for years already, and we thought you’d enjoy seeing another perspective on English learning in China.

If these diagrams are confusing to you because you lack Chinese reading skills, well, they are just as mystifying to a majority of Chinese commentators:

Reading this made me dizzy! I’d rather just learn by rote memorization[picknose.emo]

Completely don’t understand this, does learning English require such lengths? Learning a new language is based on a feeling…

It’s very long, I didn’t read my way to the end[smilingwave.emo]

Really, I don’t have the patience.[dizzy.emo]

I get dizzy the more I look at this[barf.emo]

English grammar treeWhile this looks like a “handy” memorization cheat sheet, it is actually the opposite: a dynamic flow chart to allow someone to quickly navigate English grammar and tenses on the fly—if these diagrams can fit into your pocket, that is, or you can put them onto your iPad..

Guangzhou Daily described the diagrams as so:

Actually, [learning] English is just like this — Learning by rote is not as efficient as using it directly to easily learn and understand English grammar as seen in these English grammar tree diagrams. It’s been said that once anyone finishes reading this diagram, their English will improve…

Many native English speakers didn’t learn English by rote, but instead learned as the result of an adaptive process by which assimilation into a culture was reinforced by daily correcting and testing. If that proves to be outside the limits of your average IELTS applicant, well, there’s always the route of rote memorization.

As an English teacher, you should bear in mind: always see the forest for the trees.

English grammar treeEnglish grammar treeEnglish grammar treeEnglish grammar tree English grammar treeEnglish grammar treePhotos: Guangzhou Daily via Weibo


Chinese Meme “No Zuo No Die” Laughs in the Face of Reason

Posted: 05/21/2014 7:44 pm

no zuo no dieThe culmination of decades of English language training in China has brought us to this point: a massive online meme that can be appreciated by Chinese English students, and only by Chinese English students.

No zuo no die” is a meme on the Chinese internet that only gets better as it continues to make less sense. Originally a Chinese phrase that meant “If you don’t look for trouble, you won’t find any”, the phrase was half-translated over to Chinglish where it retained one of its Chinese characters in pinyin.

Then, things could only get funnier in the same way a deceased horse can be slightly bruised in a variety of fashions..

urban dictionary chinese internet slang entries cultural validationA media buzz surfaced when several Chinese phrases were published in the Urban Dictionary. Online media saw the admission of “no zuo no die” along with “you can you up, no can no bb” and “zhuangbility” as “deserving of applause” for having “invaded a US online dictionary”. Even the People’s Daily boldly said, ”English speakers may soon be saying “you can you up, no can no bb” in response to criticism.”

Are you ready for “no zuo no die”? Because it’s ready for you.

The latest transformation of this meme is into a set of English lyrics that can be sung with a bunch of songs and TV show themes that include “Doramon”, “Sparkling Red Star”, “The Little Girl Who Picked Mushrooms”, “Only Mother Knows Best”, “The Most Dazzling Ethnic Customs”, “I Love Beijing Tiananmen”, and the Mozart hit “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.

The English lyrics go like this:

No zuo no die, why you try
No try, no high, give me five
Why try, why high, can be shine
You shine, you cry, you still go die
No zuo no die, don’t be shy
You shy, you die, you can try
Keep try, keep shine, love that guy
But he only say good night

Whaaa? Still don’t know what to make of these English words of which you are a fluent speaker? Here’s a video using the above lyrics to sing a variety of TV show themes:

Take a bow, English teachers of China: your hard work forging the minds of tomorrow has all come to this point.

Photo: Meilishuo


China Insider: Why Cancelling “Big Bang Theory” is a Bad Move

Posted: 04/28/2014 6:21 pm

Yes, I’m afraid this will be canon from now on: “The Big Bang Theory” is no longer broadcast on the video streaming site Sohu TV and availabe for watching in China.

To lovers of comedy and TV shows with real nerd credentials like “Community” , this is of no relevant consequence. “The Big Bang Theory” is where comedy goes to die and when a night of apathetic entertainment begins, the couch being the piece of furniture set on the lowest expectations.

But to its millions of fans around China, the cancellation of Sohu’s broadcast of “The Big Bang Theory” on April 26, 2014 is the end of an era; it’s the dawn of a sunless tomorrow. This is the day the laughter died, its laugh track hushed, forever.

Sure, there happen to be other shows that were taken off the air as well in this recent purge: “The Good Wife“, “NCIS“, and “The Practice“.  But while these shows are popular and will be missed by some, these shows don’t compare with “The Big Bang Theory“; they don’t have the same bang for your buck.

The Big Bang Theory” is:

  • a connection to the West through via safe, non-threatening characters: by being an insular group of introverted elitists, the gang (and their subsequent girlfriends/wives/sorry, Raj) will not rock the boat of orthodoxy. You will laugh at their embarrassing mistakes until you love them.
  • a reason to actually enjoy English rather than just study it: English teachers will have their own opinions, but there hasn’t seemed to be a phenomenon like this since “Friends“: an English show that Chinese English students will watch just for fun. “The Big Bang Theory” is the one popular English show that Chinese audiences don’t mind that it’s in English. That may be because like Friends, it is…
  • the only English-speaking show that they can clearly understand: Do you like “The Office“? To a Chinese audience, that’s a half-hour of mumbling interspersed with awkward moments and “Jim” reaction shots. Despite use of scientific jargon and oblique nerd references, the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” speak the way they do on English instructional lessons. That’s because it employs…
  • a “vaudeville-style” of theater familiar to Chinese audiences: the sit-com format with three cameras may be a tired format on Western media; however, the concept of a static fourth wall is fresh as ever in Chinese media, even employed during news and photo shoots. Also, “The Big Bang Theory” may be the closest Western show comparable to the sound effect-laden dischord of Chinese variety shows.
  • a set of well-done subtitle translations: even if you don’t understand a word of English, and don’t understand Western culture at all, the Sohu broadcast of “The Big Bang Theory” used excellent translations that takes colloquial English and turns it into equally relatable Chinese. In fact, on many of its shows, Sohu includes extra “header” notes to explain cultural references in notes written on top of the screen for review during a second watching.

Streaming of Western TV in China would reach such enviable heights as broadcasting the second half of the last season of “Breaking Bad” not 24 hours after the initial Western broadcast. However, “Breaking Bad” doesn’t relate to Chinese audiences the way “The Big Bang Theory” does, or its closest rival, the well-loved racist sitcom of “2 Broke Girls“.

Even though nothing can compete with the breasts of Kat Dennings, or her parading of them before her other talents, “The Big Bang Theory” still stands apart for the cultural impact it has had upon China. While other shows may be as popular or boast the same strengths as noted above, these shows don’t have a relatable and well-loved Sheldon, an insufferable character who is selfish and self-righteous, sympathized with by audiences the whole country over.

Sure, there have been other huge breakout hits in China—ambitious emigrants looking to bypass the system may have been enthralled by “Prison Break“, attention-seekers may sympathize with the plucky gang on “Glee“—but the end of this public broadcast on Sohu will hurt the country immeasurably.

There is still no direct reason given for why “The Big Bang Theory” was pulled from the air by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television; cancellations happen often, and often without warning. The cancellation comes during a government crackdown upon obscene and copyright infringement material.

We may speculate that this has to do with Sheldon’s recent character arc at having falsely discovered a new element that was independently verified by a Chinese team, upon which some jokes were lobbed at the Communist Party. (As it’s “The Big Bang Theory“, it’s not really worth retelling anyways.)

Party mouthpiece People’s Daily expressed that “If you don’t have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom?” And that’s what “The Big Bang Theory” has become: the disharmonious pangs of laughter.

Last Saturday, April 26 was the day the laughter died—and to an audience so accustomed to artificial laugh tracks, canned laughter is as fresh as a new-born baby’s gurgle.

Photo: SciFi  Mania


Shenzhen expat records song lampooning English teachers

Posted: 01/28/2014 7:00 am

One of the many issues facing those who come to China to teach English is a lack of respect. Middle Kingdom Life writes very well about the derision foreign teachers face from employers and colleagues. It has also been claimed by a blogger that members of the non-teaching expat community look down upon the English teacher “in the same way that the Chinese businessman looks down upon street cleaners.”

If this song “Super English Teacher” is anything to go by, then that is certainly the case:

The song has been done by a Shenzhen-based American who calls himself The Fred. A mysterious character, he pops up on a number of local blogs and forums with his observations and songs. And believe me, although this song contains some strong language, it is a nursery rhyme compared to most of his others.

Here is the YouTube version:

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