May You Have a New Year Filled with (fill in the blank)

Automated Chinese couplets available for the new year. 

The Chinese New Year is just around the corner (January 26, 2009, for your party planning). While we try to not miss a celebration for any reason, many westerners may not know of the custom of chun lian, a poetic couplet written on strips of red paper specially for the new year in China. Usually posted on a door, it conveys a happy and hopeful message about the new year. Traditionally, of course, for thousands of years, these were painstakingly painted.

Now we have yet another tradition adapted to the current times with technology. Sina Corporation has moved this custom to their mobile phones.

Aah, but not only has the custom been adapted, it has been automated! Enter Microsoft. Sina has contracted to use Microsoft’s technology to automatically complete a chun lian couplet. The user enters a first line, and “the engine will automatically build the second line and horizontal scroll bearing an inscription to users in the form of multimedia message service or SMS.”

Fascinating technology! I leave it to my Chinese-speaking friends to try it out and comment on the poetic quality.


Donna Parrish
Publisher of MultiLingual, Donna Parrish is also co-organizer of the LocWorld conferences. Coming into the language industry from a background of mathematics and computer programming, she has an appreciation for the wizardry of language technology and an awe for linguists.

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