Pinyin Problems with the Wellington Phoenix

Bye bye, Sony. Ni hao Huawei! The Wellington Phoenix A-League Football Club welcome their big new Chinese sponsor with a cheesy YouTube video.

Though I’m a Welly gal through and through, I don’t really have much to do with the capital’s beloved Phoenix.  I smile at stadium goers clad in black and yellow from the bus stop at New World Metro. One time we stood outside Terry Seripisos’ mansion in Roseneath and commented on the Greek-inspired pillar formations. That’s about it.

The Phoenix are now sponsored by Huawei, a giant telecommunications company that is mainly known for:

  • selling cheap Smartphones at Noel Leemings
  • being considered a security threat by the US Government for potentially making phones which allow the Chinese Government to access unauthorized information

A few months ago, the club uploaded this video to YouTube with some players and other men in suits trying to pronounce the name of the glossy new logo smack-bang in the middle of their shirts.

The video’s cute ukulele rhythms, devil-may-care whistling and happy hand claps may lead you to think this is an ad for a mega sale at Bunnings or extra-adhesive nappies, but no, it’s the blatantly scripted (but still kind of cute) welcome for the Chinese communications company, who will be joining the party for the next three years.

Watching this video makes me think of awkwardly smiling for a photo for too long with camera-wielding Dad saying “one more… hold on… just one more!” for the twenty-ninth time. There has been a lot of work to make this video as casual, jolly and natural as possible, the sweet sugar coating is shiny and reflective like a candy apple at the school gala, eventually hurting your teeth. Someone from the Huawei social media team has even made a lone comment at the bottom with an appropriate hashtag, it is a well-orchestrated exercise. Because they are a Chinese company. And because they are Huawei.

Gotta admit though, it is clever marketing, da boys all saying “Who R Wey?” with perplexed faces and confused laughs, which then makes way for the more palatable Wah-Way slogan that all the fans can say with some degree of fluency. Hip-hip, Huawei!

I could try to pull off an analysis of how when a Phoenix member quips that Huawei “is kind of like German,” it helps the club to subconsciously reaffirm cultural identities with their predominantly Pakeha sporting fan base etc, but that is probably going to far. And why go with ‘Wah-Way’ instead of the more accurate, Wades-Giles-esque spelling ‘Hwah-Way’? Maybe the latter looks too Chinesey. Eh, I only took Media Studies for one semester.

End of the day, pinyin can be a bitch to try and read phonetically. Besides, non-native English speakers trying to pronounce ‘Phoenix’ would probably come out sounding like some form of rare colon disease. 

Conclusion: I’m cool with this.

Check out these pronunciation tips and audio grabs on ChinesePod.

And here’s a timeless lǎowài [老外, foreigner] YouTube hit, but probably more enjoyable if you know some Mandarin: “Dui Bu Qi Wo De Zhongwen Bu Hao / Sorry, my Chinese is not so good!”