Speak Mandarin spot gets criticised for incorrect use of Mandarin

A recent video posted on the Speak Mandarin Campaign’s Facebook page has come under fire by netizens for the incorrect use of descriptive words, or what the group terms as classifiers.

The debate was around the use of the words 个 (ge) and 粒 (li) to describe objects such as apples and balls. In the video, the woman corrects the male character on the use of  “一个” (yi ge) when it came to describing round objects. She tells him the correct use is actually “一粒” (yi li).

However, many netizens pointed out that in this context, the man was actually correct and the lady was in fact, in the wrong. The video garnered 10,000 views, 73 reactions and 126 shares at the time of writing. Watch the spot here.

Ironically, the Promote Mandarin Council’s Speak Mandarin Campaign’s website has the correct use of the word 粒 (li) is as follows (which is different from the video).

“One often hears the classifier ‘粒’ (li) used for any spherical object, be it a ball, a mantou or a watermelon. ‘粒’ (li) literally means ‘grain’ or ‘particle’ and should only be used for items the size of a pellet or smaller.”

Hence, netizens were indeed right in pointing out that using “粒”(li) for specifically the objects mentioned in the video, apples and balls, was incorrect.

On the video, netizens debated on the correct use of the classifier ‘粒’ (li) and also criticised the group for not taking the video down despite being incorrect. The campaign also gained media attention from local outlets. It was called out by local radio station Capital 95.8FM which got experts to weigh in on its radio show. Reports of the campaign also surfaced on local newspaper The Straits Times  which sparked the debate of the use of the word.

In a statement to Marketing, the Speak Mandarin Campaign said that the video which lasted 1 minute and 50 seconds was produced by NUS Chinese Drama.

“This was with the aim to encourage the use of Mandarin in Singapore, especially among English speaking students,” the spokesperson said. She added that NUS Chinese Drama will follow up with videos to address usage of 个 (ge) and粒 (li).

So what do you think on the use of these Chinese classifiers? Let us know in the comments below!

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