21
Aug
2008

More than just adding oil (加油)

Go China!  中国加油!

Photo originally found on Mop here.

“Add fuel?” “Let’s go?” “Olé! Olé! Olé?” “Come on?” One of the quirkier news stories that has come out of the Beijing Olympics is how to translate the ubiquitous Chinese cheer 加油 (jiāyóu). The New York Times Rings blog wrote about the various contexts that 加油 has been used–ranging from the current usage during the Olympics to the Wenchuan earthquake–and sparking a vibrant comment thread where no one seemed to be able to agree. Even the Chinese news agency Xinhua got into the act, covering the foreign media’s struggles to translate the phrase properly. And an intrepid blogger took it further–why bother stopping at English when you can say 加油 in languages from Luxembourgish to Prussian?

China Daily also examined how China might need new cheers and compared China’s cheering to the organized South Korean effort. Is the simple 加油 really that boring?  (Aug. 23 Update)  The Australian certainly thinks so.

In case you haven’t gotten the hang of it yet, here’s a video on how to cheer the Chinese way from the hilariously straight-faced Two Chinese Characters.

How would you translate 加油? I’ve always had a fondness for “good luck” myself.

On a related note, the Wall Street Journal writes about a government program called Heart-to-Heart that assigned local Beijing schools to cheer for visiting countries. While Huajiadi Experimental Primary School was thrilled to be picked as one of the cheerleading schools, they were understandably less thrilled when they were assigned to cheer for a traditional archenemy: Japan. Nonetheless, in the spirit of international amity, the school made the best of it. One terrific line at the end of the article makes the point that children might “[associate] Japan with cartoons, not history.”

Ironically, the program was first begun by the Japanese during the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.

One has to wonder how the school assigned to France, China’s newest international nemesis, felt.

Fiona Lee is a freelance writer/marketer/blogger based in Beijing. She blogs at quirkyBeijing.

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