Sunday, November 15, 2009

Help wanted

On the front page of this morning's New York Times, above the fold, is a photograph with the caption "A Beijing store is selling notebooks with an image of President Obama, who arrives in China for a three-day visit on Sunday." Most prominent in the photograph is a handwritten sign in Chinese -- and since I am once again studying Chinese (in a very relaxed way) I was curious as to what the sign said. Here is an image of the sign:

There are three characters on the top line and a single character in parentheses below. I should have recognized two of the characters, but the only one I recognized was the one at the bottom in parentheses: 女 (nǚ) which means female or woman.

To find what the other three are I went to YellowBridge and drew the characters into the handwriting recognizer. I learned that the three characters were 招店員 (zhāo diàn yuán) and mean, roughly, "seeking a shop assistant", so the sign means "female shop assistant wanted." I was surprised that the character 員 was the "traditional" form and not the modern "simplified" form, which is 员. The other three characters are the same in both traditional and simplified.

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