Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sinanci & 豪萨语 (Chinese & Hausa) materials

Contemporary Chinese
A couple of quick observations about links between Hausa language and Chinese (Mandarin), with attention to China:
  1. More is being done with these two languages (without using another tongue as intermediary) than many realize; and
  2. There appears to be a gap in knowledge of Unicode support for the extended-Latin "hooked" characters in Hausa by people producing materials with Hausa text .
I plan to go a little more in-depth on African languages and Chinese in a future post - and should note in that context that Swahili is the African language (other than Arabic) with the most connections with Chinese - but for now would note that there is a number of materials for Hausa speakers to learn Chinese, and for Chinese speakers to learn Hausa. Although I have not yet found a bibliography of such materials, responses to a question on the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China (CA/AC) list, and an internet search focused on Hausa and Chinese have yielded information on some items (the latter beginning with images, which is unusual from my web-searching experience).

Chinese for Hausa-speakers

The image on the top right, for Sinanci na Zamani - 当代中文, is for one of a set of materials (see here for another) for learning Chinese from Hausa - the title translates as Modern or Contemporary Chinese.

I received divergent assessments of availability of Chinese learning materials for Africa in African languages, with one reporting for instance that Confucius Institutes create local language materials on their own, and another suggesting that materials and teacher skills mainly in English might be limitations of the Institutes. In follow up research, however, I found PDFs of a book chapter introducing the Chinese pinyin system in Hausa, and a chapter on basic conversation (the latter includes the title "Kuaile Hanyu" in the page footers), both on the Confucius Institute's website, (it is not clear that either of these is part of the Sinanci na Zamani series mentioned above).

That doesn't necessarily mean that these materials are used in Confucius Institutes - they could be used in schools. (I would mention here that I heard from another source that a private Chinese language school in Niamey, Niger taught from French, and used neither Hausa or Zarma.)

One technical note on the production of both of these Hausa-Chinese chapters found on pertains to hacks used for extended Latin characters used in both Hausa (the "hooked letters" ɓ, ɗ, and k) and Chinese pinyin (vowels with tone marks). The image of "Gabatarwa" (introduction) above "reveals" the coding behind the hooked characters in the PDF: } = ƙ] = ɗ; ~ = ɓ. This is similar to the pre-Unicode 8-bit font hacks like we had to do for the Fulfulde lexicon a quarter century ago, or have been done with fonts like Bambara Arial also in the 1990s. In fact, it appears to be the "ANSI" encoded (8-bit) font "AbdallaUbaAdamu-regular" that is the source of these substitutions (one source indicates this font was created in 1996).

What is more surprising is the many such substitutions done for tone-marked vowels in pinyin, all of which have had Unicode codepoints for years now. (For a quick look, see the Google cached versions of one and the other of the two chapters mentioned above, which show the actual characters that have been hacked for hooked consonants or toned vowels). Either the documents are rather old or their creators were not "Unicode savvy" in an expression that itself is dated.
Hausa Language

Hausa for Chinese-speakers

Although there must certainly be a significant number of materials for Chinese speakers learning Hausa, given that Hausa has been taught for many years at Beijing Foreign Studies University, my quick searches have not come up with a lot. One book that did come up in several searches is Harshen Hausa - 豪萨语 (Hausa Language; see image of cover on right).


Classified Dictionary
I was told about one dictionary for young Hausa speakers learning Chinese characters - 汉语图解小词典(豪萨语版)/ Ƙaramin Ƙamus Na Sinanci Da Hausa Cikin Hotuna - and in the course of researching found some others. Notable among them is one listed on the site: 汉语豪萨语分类词典 Ƙamus na Sinanci zuwa Hausa (A Classified Chinese-Hausa Dictionary; image on left). Published in 2013, it is also available for Kindle and as iBook and App. I also found proofs for the first few pages of a dictionary (image PDF; not clear what publication it came from).

In addition, the Chinese multinational telecom, Hwawei, has a dictionary app for Android: Ƙamus na Hausa - Sinanci da Sinanci - Hausa / 豪萨语 - 中文 以及 中文 - 豪萨语 字典 Ver 1.0 APK.


I came to this subject with modest expectations, which were more or less confirmed by responses to the question I posed on the CA/AC list (thanks again to those who responded offline to my question). However as I looked into it further, it seemed that there is much more happening. In addition to materials, it bears mentioning that what I understood as plans for Hausa dubbing of Chinese films have already started (more on that in another post).

The 8-bit vs. Unicode font issue mentioned may already be resolved. Assuming it is, the lessons learned might be applicable to China Radio International's Hausa service web content.

This very quick survey is just a start and doubtless has missed much. I hope to come back to the topic as indicated above, in a broader Africa-wide look at connections between Chinese and African languages.

No comments: