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G20: Hangzhou

By SCMP

G20: Hangzhou

Wai-kan-mu tu Hangzhou: City’s sincere if cryptic messages of welcome to G20 foreign guests

Authorities use the sound of Chinese characters to approximate English pronunciation to teach residents a list of 100 handy phrases

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 8:28pm

Hangzhou, the picturesque eastern Chinese city that will host the upcoming Group of 20 leaders’ summit, is arming its residents with handy English phrases to warmly welcome their foreign guests.

But just how do you teach someone who has never spoken English words more complicated than “hello” or “bye” – let alone memorise entire phrases?

The city government’s solution is simple – by stringing together clusters of Chinese characters whose meaning is gibberish but whose pinyin pronunciation approximate the sounds of English syllables.

And the result?

“Wai-kan-mu tu Hangzhou.” (Welcome to Hangzhou – close!)

“Hangzhou, a pai-ai-na-da-si an e-si.” (Hangzhou, a paradise on earth – hmmm)

These are among phrases listed in a government-issued pamphlet entitled “Happily welcome G20, be a good host – to quickly memorise 100 English sentences” being distributed to residents ahead of the summit in September.

“Hangzhou, a pai-ai-na-da-si an e-si.” (Hangzhou, a paradise on earth)
List of 100 phrases

Some more challenging phrases include the famous “10 scenes of West Lake” that were built during the Southern Song Dynasty about 800 years ago, whose traditional names are four Chinese characters long.

The famous “Su ti chun xiao (dawn on the Su causeway in spring)”, for example, is rendered a string of characters transliterated crudely into English as “dao-en ang-en su-kao-si-wei yin si-bu-rui-yin”.

“San tan ying yue (three ponds mirroring the moon)” became “shi-rui pang-ci mi-rui-e-run-ying mu-en”.

Such English instructional methods were common for Chinese pupils in the old days, especially in less-developed areas where the quality of education was questionable.

When the pamphlet was posted online, many internet users challenged the effectiveness of the method – with some even calling it a disgrace.

“Stupid method, it makes our countrymen lose face,” said one commentator.

Some residents complained that the government had already disturbed their daily lives far too much ahead of the G20 summit.

“I really can’t smile when I see [the words] G20. My workplace forces us to learn English at lunch break every day, and in the evening the TV broadcasts shows teaching English like this. The people of Hangzhou are tormented every day,” another wrote.