What a Difference an "A" makes!

pick up a chinese

Comments:

so did you pick it up ?

where was this taken, did you check out the book, how is it ?

Posted by tabman on October 08, 2008 at 12:21 PM CST #

tabman, what mel is referring to is that the "A" totally changes the meaning of the title. Without the "A":

Pick Up Chinese

It is referring to the language.

But, with the "A":

Pick Up A Chinese

It is actually saying:

Pick Up A Chinese \*Person\*

As in, how to go on a date with one.

There are many subtleties to the English language which are not easily learned.

Posted by Robs on October 08, 2008 at 02:19 PM CST #

Nah Tabman, I didn't buy it. I thought if they can't use proper grammar on the advertising then the book couldn't be that good either. :)

Well summed up, Rob. And really, when people learn foreign languages, what is most often their goal? :)

Posted by Melanie Gao on October 08, 2008 at 02:53 PM CST #

Mel, I did not realize you took a picture when we saw this. :-) Actually as non-native English speaker I did not get it at first sight. But Melanie then told me.
Tabman, this was taken at a "kind of" apple-store near silk market.

Posted by Andreas on October 08, 2008 at 07:38 PM CST #

so any suggestions for a foreigner coming to Beijing, where to get hold of a book for learning chinese or translations or something like that ?

Posted by tabman on October 09, 2008 at 01:13 AM CST #

Tabman I recommend chinesepod.com for you, I find their lessons and their website very useful. If you just need to translate material I suggest babelfish.altavista.com. Once you get to China you might want to check out the BLCU language books, I like their style and structure.

Let me know if you have other questions as you prepare to come here!

Posted by melanie gao on October 09, 2008 at 01:23 AM CST #

Well, here in Old Blighty, "Pick up a Chinese" means "pick up a Chinese food take-away". But, in the context of having a choice of Cantonese or Mandarin, "Pick up a Chinese" is an acceptable shortening of "Pick up a Chinese language". If there were a similar display with French, Italian, and Spanish, the sign could say "Pick up a Romance".
Funny I should read this today, because my Finnish friend just came back from Berlin with a photo of a cardboard JFK saying "Ich bin ein Berliner" and me explaining to her that it means "I am a jelly doughnut".

Posted by I18n G.A.L. on October 22, 2008 at 11:30 PM CST #

Hmmm... I18n G.A.L., I think technically you're right about picking up a Chinese but it would be much more natural to say "Pick up Chinese - Cantonese or Mandarin". So perhaps not absolutely wrong from a grammatical point of view, but also not a natural or normal way to express the thought. Anyway, I'll let them keep the sign. :)

Posted by melanie gao on October 23, 2008 at 01:12 AM CST #

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