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Linguistics, Phonetics, Translation

How Chinese Women Are Using ‘Rice Bunnies’ To Avoid Censorship

By now, the chances are low you have not heard of the ‘#MeToo’ movement, which has empowered women worldwide to talk about their experiences with sexual assault, especially when it comes to awkward experiences at work with powerful figures. The movement quickly spread globally, causing

Though attempts to silence women speaking out about these assaults have definitely been made, none have been as widespread and organized as those of the Chinese social media companies, where women noticed their posts including the popular hashtags being removed.

According to The Conversation, the name change came around January 19 when hundreds of social media posts using #MeTooInChina (#MeToo在中国) were reportedly deleted by internet censors. Forums addressing the topic were reportedly removed as well.

In response, Chinese feminists started using “米兔” or”Rice Bunny” emojis, because the phonetics of the two characters “Mi Tu” closely resemble the name of the English movement. This gave Chinese women the opportunity to continue sharing their stories while avoiding the censorship.


#MeToo in China

The movement arrived in China when Luo Xixi, a Chinese citizen, shared her story of sexual harassment on January first. The women who was residing in Silicon Valley decided to not only share her story with the people around her, but also with the people back in her home country of China. She shared her 3000-word post on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media site.

The story of how she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor and renowned professor Chen Xiaowu quickly received millions of views and was widely circulated on both social and state media. In response to the story, Xiaowu was quickly fired by the university.

Encouraged and empowered by her Xixi’s story, more women came forward with the experiences that they had kept silent for so long, mainly concerning sexual assaults within academic institutions and universities.

In many ways the #MeToo movement in China wasn’t only about coming out, it was also about changing the stigmatism that comes with sharing their story.

Click here to find out more about the women behind the movement in China.

Avoiding censorship

China is not unfamiliar with online and offline censorships, and it feminist movements seem to be especially targeted in the conservative country.

This is not the first time the Chinese people use clever wordplay to get around the censorship. Two previous examples of this are “river crab” and “grass-mud horse”, which because of their pronunciations in Chinese are used to hide a secret meaning. The former is used to indicate censorship and the latter refers to a Chinese obscenity.

Interested in learning Mandarin?

Get started with our 400 word guide, containing the most useful selection of words to get you started in any language.


Inspiration, Linguistics, Resources

8 TED Talks That Will Inspire You To Learn A New Language

Who doesn’t love a good TED Talk? At the very least they tell you something you didn’t know before. At the very best they inspire you to become a smarter, wiser person. If you are a language fanatic (like most of us here at the Foreign Language Collective), you will especially love all of these interesting talks about language.

Did you know the language you speak can actually affect how much you save? Or that there is a hidden musicality within sign language?

Watch one of these TED Talks for some guaranteed language learning inspiration.

1. Four Reasons To Learn A New Languager

“English is fast becoming the world’s universal language, and instant translation technology is improving every year. So why bother learning a foreign language? Linguist and Columbia professor John McWhorter shares four alluring benefits of learning an unfamiliar tongue.”

2. Learn To Read Chinese .. with ease

For foreigners, learning to speak Chinese is a hard task. But learning to read the beautiful, often complex characters of the Chinese written language may be less difficult. ShaoLan walks through a simple lesson in recognizing the ideas behind the characters and their meaning — building from a few simple forms to more complex concepts. Call it Chineasy.

3. My Year of Reading A Book From Every Country In the World

Ann Morgan considered herself well read — until she discovered the “massive blindspot” on her bookshelf. Amid a multitude of English and American authors, there were very few books from beyond the English-speaking world. So she set an ambitious goal: to read one book from every country in the world over the course of a year. Now she’s urging other Anglophiles to read translated works so that publishers will work harder to bring foreign literary gems back to their shores. Explore interactive maps of her reading journey here:

4. The Enchanting Music of Sign Language

Artist and TED Fellow Christine Sun Kim was born deaf, and she was taught to believe that sound wasn’t a part of her life, that it was a hearing person’s thing. Through her art, she discovered similarities between American Sign Language and music, and she realized that sound doesn’t have to be known solely through the ears — it can be felt, seen and experienced as an idea. In this endearing talk, she invites us to open our eyes and ears and participate in the rich treasure of visual language.

5. Don’t Insist on English

Patricia Ryan is a longtime English teacher who asks a provocative question: Is the world’s focus on English preventing the spread of great ideas in other languages? In other words: What if Einstein had to pass the TOEFL? It’s a passionate defense of translating and sharing ideas.

6. Could your language affect your ability to save money?

What can economists learn from linguists? Behavioral economist Keith Chen introduces a fascinating pattern from his research: that languages without a concept for the future — “It rain tomorrow,” instead of “It will rain tomorrow” — correlate strongly with high savings rates.

7. Don’t kill your language

More and more, English is a global language; speaking it is perceived as a sign of being modern. But — what do we lose when we leave behind our mother tongues? Suzanne Talhouk makes an impassioned case to love your own language, and to cherish what it can express that no other language can. In Arabic with subtitles.

8. Should we simplify spelling?

How much energy and brain power do we devote to learning how to spell? Language evolves over time, and with it the way we spell — is it worth it to spend so much time memorizing rules that are filled with endless exceptions? Literary scholar Karina Galperin suggests that it may be time for an update in the way we think about and record language. (In Spanish with English subtitles)

How To Say

How To Say ‘Knock Knock’ in 35 Languages

We all know every language has their own words, but even sounds are described differently around the world!

Here is a list of 35 languages and how they translate the “knock knock” sound.


Albanian – “Tak Tak”

Arabic (Morocco) – “Dak Dak”

Arabic (Syria) – “Taq Taq” / “Taa Taa”

Bulgarian – ” чук чук” (“Chuk Chuk”)

Cantonese – 咯咯

Chinese – 扣扣

Czech – “ťuk ťuk”

Dutch – “Klop Klop”

English – “Knock Knock”

Finnish – “Kop Kop”

French – “Toc Toc”

Georgian – “Kak-Kuk”

German – “Klopf Klopf”

Hebrew – “Tuk Tuk”

Hungarian – “Kopp Kopp”

Indonesian – “Tok Tok Tok” (mostly said 3 times)

Xhosa (South Africa) – “Nqo nqo”

Zulu (South Africa) – “Koko”

Italian – “Toc Toc”

Korean – 똑똑똑 / “Ddok Ddok Ddok”

Lithuanian – “Tuk Tuk”

Mandarin –  “叩叩”

Norwegian – “Bank Bank”

Papiamento (Aruba) – “Tok Tok”

Persian – “Tagh tagh”

Polish – “Puk Puk”

Portuguese – “Toc Toc” / “Truz Truz”

Romanian – “Cioc cioc”

Russian – “тук тук” (Tuk Tuk)

Serbian – “Kuc Kuc”

Spanish – “Toc Toc”

Turkish –  “Tık tık”/ “Tak tak”

Urdu – “Khat Khat”

Venda (South Africa) – “Ndaa”

Vietnamese – “Cốc Cốc” *


*Fun fact; this is also the name of a popular search engine in Vietnam

400 Word Guide, Resources

Learn Mandarin in 400 Words

What if I told you 400 words is all it takes to survive in a language?

To express yourself in a foreign language is never easy, but by learning the most basic verbs, descriptive adjectives and nouns you can cover most daily interactions and have a head start when trying to learn this language.

At The Foreign Language Collective we have created a list of the 400 most basic words and have asked people in our community to translate them to their native language.

Together we have created multiple guides to help you communicate yourself in any language.

The main focus of this guide is communication. Grammatical perfection is something that takes time, but communicating is the basis of any language.

The idea is that these words can serve as your basic skill set from where you can build understandable and descriptive sentences to allow you to communicate yourself.

The guide is built from basic verbs and sentences, as well as nouns and adjectives that can help you describe things or people.

That is why we have included lots of words like “big” or “small”, “dark” and “light”, but also words like “more” and “less”.

From here you can describe things as “More big”, which may not be grammatically correct but it will in most cases be understood.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor why use many words when a few will do

You can also combine words like “Yesterday” and “Tomorrow” with your basic verbs, so you can say things like “I go tomorrow”, which in some languages is grammatically correct, in others it is not, but it will always be understood.

We are aware you can not become fluent with 400 words, but the idea is to give you a good base for you can communicate and understand the most basic things. From there on you can get the conversation going, ask questions and learn more.

Learning many words or grammatical often doesn’t make sense until you actually need it, so when the time is right you can move on and research the things you think are missing in your communication.

Whether you just want to cover the basics or continue learning this language until fluency, these 400 words are a great start for you.


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