ABC newcomers get "lost in translation"

10 years ago, American Born Chinese (ABC) singers such as Leehom Wang and Coco Li became some of the very best in the Taiwanese music industry. Their American accent became a unique trait instead of a crutch. Now into the new decade, a new batch of ABC singers, Jeremy Liu, Joanna, and Cindy Yen, arrive onto the scene, hoping to achieve the same fate as their earlier predecessors. However, being an ABC in a non-native land, humorous situations can occur.

Jeremy Liu's personal GPS system

Jeremy Liu was born in the entertainment industry as his father is famous musician and his mother is a famous actress. Growing up in the United States, his father drilled into his head, “You are Chinese, therefore you cannot not know Chinese. This would be too humiliating.” However, he was unable to have opportunities to use Chinese in the States, and went he went to Taiwan to start his music career, he was a self-proclaimed “illiterate”. Jeremy only knew a few Chinese words and when he wrote songs he only expressed a few basic ideas that he wanted in his songs and the rest he left up to his songwriter. When his songwriter came back with Chinese rap, he was astounded and had to rely on memorizing the lyrics by pinyin.

Last year he had a New Year’s Eve performance for the first time, with 100,000 people in attendance. The event organizers were ready with the teleprompter, but it was useless to Jeremy. He was so nervous he paced back and forth, and said with a laugh, “I memorize lyrics holistically. If I forget one line I’ll forget the whole song, so I’m scared to interact with the audience.” Amazingly, even though he can’t read Chinese, he is able to ride freely the subways of Taipei. His secret? Memorizing landmarks. In order to lose weight, one time he spent 2 hours bicycling across two counties in Taipei. Not wanting to be recognized, he was afraid to ask for directions, so he memorized landmarks such as the SOGO Shopping center and the Grand Hotel in order to make his way home safely.

Joanna uses charades to get oysters

Joanna had studied elementary school in Taiwan and moved to the United States when she was in second grade. Luckily her father brought with them a set of novels by Jing Yong. Whenever she had free time she read these books, reviewing her Chinese skills. However, even though she can read fluently, she has difficulty speaking and writing Mandarin. On a trip to China to promote her album, she wanted to order oysters in a restaurant. Though she had recognized the simplified character for “oyster”, she couldn’t pronounce it, and tried to speak in English and use hand gestures to explain to the waiter what she wanted. In the end, it was too difficult for her to explain and she decided not to get it. She joked, “It’s a good thing I know how to write my own name so that I can sign my albums for the fans!”

Cindy Yen is "hungry" for idioms

Cindy Yen’s father was a college professor in mathematical statistics. It was very important to him that his daughter had strong Chinese skills. She grew up in the United States, but was forced by her parents to practice calligraphy, learn idioms, and read the newspaper to stay informed. Cindy is even fluent enough to make Chinese puns! Once at a public service event, she wanted everyone to have a spirit of empathy, using the Chinese idiom, “人飢己飢、人溺己溺” (“one person is hungry, all are hungry. One person drowns, all drown.”). Her colleagues were surprised at her choice of words, asking, “do you know what that idiom means?” “Of course I understand,” she said, and quipped in English, “You Hungry, I hungry.”

translator's note: for our readers who may not exactly know what an ABC is, here is an informative and humorous video from one of our loyal readers!

Source: UDN

Return to top of page Copyright © 2010 |