[LETTERS to the editor]Research facts or leave unsaid

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[LETTERS to the editor]Research facts or leave unsaid

This is a somewhat late response to the article “New Noodles are healthier, pricier” published on Sept 14, 2005 in the JoongAng Daily. But I suppose better late than never.
In the article, the writers made the point that “Ramyeon is the Korean word for noodles, also known in Japanese as ramen and in Chinese as lo mein.”
The last translation almost made me choke on my noodles. Simply put, your writer is ill-informed about regional differences in China.
The translation lo mein is Cantonese, which is a provincial tongue spoken only in South China ― mainly within Guangdong province ― as well as in neighboring Hong Kong. And if you were to ask a Chinese in Beijing or in Shanghai what lo mein is, they would have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
A much safer bet is to use the equivalent in putonghua (common language), which is widely understood in all parts of China. But noodles can be said in different ways, whether they are handmade noodles (shou kan mian), fresh noodles (mian tiao), or instant noodles (fang bian mian). Indeed, for the translation of “instant noodles,” there are at least three ways of saying it, depending on whether you come from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or mainland China. Therefore, it can be translated as gong zai meen, kuai shou mian or fang bian mian.
The main point of my letter is, if you are unsure or unclear about something, either do more research on the issue, or simply DO NOT include it in the article. It is much better to leave something unsaid than to expose your sheer ignorance about the matter.
The secondary point of my letter is that your writers need an urgent crash course on appreciating diverse cultural differences.

by Maria Siow
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