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Chinese English, warts and all [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2006-4-2 12:14:14 |Display all floors
What is Chinglish?

Teacher Sun from Henan Province gives this definition:
"Chinglish is a language of communication developed in the classroom between Chinese (English-language) teachers and their students, a cant that no third parties understand."

That's succinct, pithy, and frankly I haven't seen a more damning indictment of the English-language teaching system in our beloved country than that!

And having survived that type of classroom myself, I know what Sun is talking about. I think all English teachers and students know what I'm talking about.

Now, that's enough serious discussion of the subject already. Let's call it off because, you see, Chinglish is no big crime. However jarring it may sound to the educated ear, no one has died from bad English yet.

Here's a more cordial definition. Chinglish, which is combined from the words CHIN-ese and En-GLISH, is just that, Chinese English, a form of pidgin English spoken and written by native Chinese speakers.

Like I said before, poor English is no big crime. It's not a Chinese phenomenon, either. Throughout the world, non-native English speakers speak pidgin and suffer from it if it's not too bad. When it becomes too bad, the situation takes a sudden turn for the better and people begin to have some fun with it. That's the spirit taken by this column (otherwise it's really a painful subject to begin with, let alone to continue).

In Singapore, for example, it's called Singlish, or Sing-aporean English. Over there, they even have pidgin Chinese, even though they may not have been aware of it. I've heard about at least one Singaporean visitor in Beijing condemning the way Beijingers speak. "What kind of Pu Tong Hua is this?" she asked concernedly. "It's very different from the Standard Mandarin we speak in Singapore. What is the Chinese mainland coming to?"

Beijingers must certainly have been inadequately trained in Singaporean Chinese, just as they are generally poorly trained in proper English. Given more practice, I'm sure Beijingers are as capable of speaking poor, broken Singaporean as they are of speaking poor, broken English.

Given time and practice, in fact, the Chinese standard for acceptable English will improve. For the time being, the situation can be, I admit, very embarrassing indeed.

However, I stolidly refuse to condemn Chinglish expressions we see in "Mad in China" product manuals as a "disgrace" or "shame to our country".

Why? Because I see Chinglish expressions as being part of "our country". It's the way it is, a true reflection of our nation in the English-language department. When you realize that those translators who come up with those strange Chinglish expressions (typos included) have actually got paid for having done such a poor job, you realize that the real problem lies elsewhere.

By my own estimation, Chinese people's tolerance for the low quality in English translations is at a par with their tolerance for the low quality of life in general.

That said, let me share with you a few of my favorite Chinglish expressions picked from real life (My picks are more of the funny, hilarious type than of the hideous and ugly, and that's due to my attitude on the matter. Language being language and that is to be used by real people with warts and faults, Chinglish expressions, if they are any good at all, may even be picked up by native speakers. Westerners in Beijing for example are heard to say "long time, no see" at such a high frequency that it is simply shocking!).

Now, Chinglish gems:

1. "恭贺新婚!" - "Congratulations on your new marriage."
"同喜同喜!" - Pleasure is yours, too.
(What is meant: "Congratulations for tying the knot"; "Thank you.")

2. 欢迎再来 - Welcome again.
(What is meant: Thanks for coming to this restaurant. You're welcome back at any time.")

3. 问询,请找负责人 - Question Authority.
(What is meant: if you have any questions, please ask the official who's on duty. Question Authority, by the way, can serve as a motto for what Chinese authorities call the masses, meaning you and me).

4. 一路平安!- Wish you the best landing!
(With hand on chest, I don't think any less "comforting" a sending-off from any Chinese airport is thinkable. What is meant: Happy flight.)

author:  Zhang Xin ... /content_557362.htm

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Post time 2006-4-6 11:38:23 |Display all floors

Non-academic definition of Chinglish.

There's Singlish, Chinglish, Japlish (sometimes also called Engrish), Manglish, Franglais, and a lot of other "Englishes", if you'll allow that.

From a purely cultural point of view, I'd define something like Chinglish as being essentially English with Chinese words and grammar used in certain familiar situations. They are very much spoken, not written, colloquial forms- localised variants of English that gain acceptance due to repeated usage.

Example: Singlish (of which I am more familiar than Chinglish) is English infused with grammar and words from the languages of the ethnic Chinese population- Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew, and Cantonese- and some Malay and even the odd Hindi and Tamil words.

Hard consonants at the end of words- eg "friend"- are not pronounced, as they rarely are to the same degree in English. "Friend" will therefore sound like "fren". Plurals of nouns aren't used as frequently, and tense is not specified in verbs- as is the case in Chinese, but is mandatory in English.

In Chinese questions can be asked offering the choice of "yes or no" and the reply is given as either one or the other; shi bu shi, for example. The question "Are you free to go to the movies tonight?" when 'translated' into Singlish would be something like "Go movie tonight ah, can or not?"

Entire expressions, mostly sayings with a prominent cutural reference, will appear in whole in their native tongue: Lim peh ka li kong is Hokkien. Here is its definition as a Singlish term taken from ... amp;lexicon=lexicon

Hokkien phrase literally meaning, "Let your father tell you..." or "Listen to your father". Used even when the speaker is not the addressee's father. It's a phrase which is designed to put you in your place - a subordinate position, naturally.
"Lim peh ka li kong, if you do like that, you sure kena hantam." (Listen to your father, if you carry on like that, you'll definitely be beaten up.)

The Singaporean authorities get really uptight about "Singlish", and try and stamp it out every so often on the basis that it is a sign of lack of a proper education. I like hearing it, even when I don't understand all of it. It lets me know who I'm dealing with, and I try to respond- not always successfully.

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