Author: tumujerome

"Chinglish" among Top Ten Words 2005  [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2005-12-23 00:51:30 |Display all floors

To Andrew

Thanks for sharing your experience and examples. They confirm the value of the kind of structurally simplified English in communication and probably in English language teaching. However, when it comes to setting a target in English learning, we will all stick to a “standard” type of English that is acceptable to the general educated public, right? Also we should not forget that a child's first language acquisition cannot be equated with on'e second language learning (especially adult's).

Sorry I don’t think I can further the discussion at this point – it’s an interesting topic so huge and complicated. I don’t usually have big chunks of time to spend on line, though I tend to leave my computer on most of the day, only quickly peeking in whenever I have a moment. I know I may have left an impression that I am glued to the screen all day!

I noticed that somewhere Linjian had recommended a Wikipedia site where you could find tons of illustrations and discussions surrounding “Chinglish”. It’s worth taking a look. (
Wiki contributors gave examples and explanations from various perspectives in an attempt to describe what they perceived as “Chinglish”. Though none was able to provide a watertight definition acceptable to all as yet – and I don’t think we will ever have one – they suffice to show the complex nature of the issue.


[ Last edited by tumujerome at 2005-12-23 01:18 AM ]

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Post time 2005-12-24 03:58:46 |Display all floors
Unfortunately wikipedia is presently banned in my neck of the woods.
I found it a valuable resource.
It would be nice if I could continue to use it.

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Post time 2005-12-24 09:32:26 |Display all floors

Oops, I forgot

that your neck of the woods is under Big Brother's watch!

Too bad. Let me choose and transplant some over here later.

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Post time 2005-12-24 11:53:19 |Display all floors

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Chinglish, a portmanteau of the words Chinese and English, is any poor or 'broken' English spoken by native Chinese speakers. Chinglish is usually found in written form. Famous examples include "no q" as a response to "thank you" (often sinicized in Mandarin Chinese as 三Q - san q) and ok lah. (The second example is both Chinglish and Singlish.)

It may also be viewed, for English language learners, as their pidgin or contact language; the type of English that they use while learning which falls somewhere between their native Chinese and fluent English. Either way, in English Learning, Chinglish is viewed as undesirable, but the use of the phrase "Chinglish" can be viewed by learners as either an insult or a joke. Some foreign teachers also refer to a school's inadequate language department as the "Chinglish Dept."

One of the more noticeable cases of Chinglish, especially on mainland China, is the phrase welcome to. This is used as a direct translation in Chinese. It actually means "we invite you to" or "you are welcome to", and is used more as an incentive to the activity introduced; or is used as a form of "thank you". Its use is almost always cordial, inviting, or otherwise positive. A more confusing matter arises with the usage of the phrase welcome again. This is used more at the end of, for example, a bus ride, or a visit to a bookstore, and would be translated as a message of thanks, and that the visitor is welcome back at any time. An equivalent phrase in English-speaking countries might be "Please come again."


    * Welcome to ride Line 52 Bus = Thank you for riding Bus Line 52.
    * Welcome to ride Line 13 again = Thank you for riding Line 13, and we would be pleased to welcome you back aboard at any time.
    * Welcome to take my taxi = Thanks for taking my taxi.
    * Welcome to listen to my news = Thanks for tuning in!
    * Welcome to use ATM service = found very often on ATMs, means thanks for using this ATM.

Types of Chinglish

Grammatically erroneous usage of English, which shows the writer "thinking in Chinese while writing in English", may also be considered Chinglish. Such examples include verbatim word-for-word translation. Samples include "Wipe out six injurious insect" (to wipe out six types of insects, including cockroaches and mosquitoes) and as well as "enjoy stand" (a scenic viewpoint).

Inaccurate pronunciation or misspellings through typos or poor pronunciation may also "create" Chinglish.


For example, the word "temple" and "temper" may be confused, as both would be pronounced similarly to "Tem-po" or "Tem-pah". Note that the two English words, when poorly pronounced, may resemble each other to the extent that the two are indistinguishable; this further creates confusion. Sometimes, the poor pronunciation of a single English word can create a Chinglish pronunciation that is almost nothing like the original English word. For example, the company named "Zellers" (part of the Hudson's Bay Company) is often incorrectly pronounced as "Se La". This is often made even worse when a name has one official writing in Chinese, and is then pronounced in other dialects. The official translation of the name "Clinton" is pronounced "Ke Lin Ton" in Mandarin, but becomes "Hat Lum Dun" when the same words are spoken in Cantonese. Coca-Cola pronounced "Ke Ko Ke Le" in Mandarin becomes "Ho Hau Ho Lok" in Cantonese (abbreviated in common speech to "Ho Lok").

Also confusion with English names is common. For many Chinese it's difficult to pronounce Allen, Ellen and Aileen differently, same with Shirley, Shelly and Cherry.

In Cantonese pronunciation, some consonants are considered equivalent and interchangeable, the most noticeable being between L and N. The cartoon dog "Snoopy" becomes "Sloopy", and the girl's name "Emily" becomes "Eminy". Some sounds are missing entirely, leaving words like "very" to be pronounced "wewy" in true Elmer Fudd style.

* All the illustrative pictures had to be removed, as they won't show here.

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Post time 2005-12-24 11:54:05 |Display all floors

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Erroneous vocabulary usage (e.g. "to put in Jingzhang Expressway" instead of "entering Jingzhang Expressway") can also qualify as Chinglish. Another common mistake is the use of "emergent" to mean "emergency" or "urgent". Many of these errors stem from misuse of, or errors in, dictionaries.

Some phrases are confused too. When explained something, most Chinese will respond with "Oh, I know," when the appropriate response would be "Oh, I see." This is because "知道 zhīdao" is usually translated as know under any circumstances. "When did you first recognize him?" is also sometimes used for "When did you first meet him?" because "认识[認識] rènshi" is usually translated as recognize as in "I recognize him from last week's party."

Some simpler errors occur with the use of see, watch, read and look at which are all one word, “看", in Chinese and may be confused with each other or just reduced to look. The situation of speak, say and talk is similar. So, someone studying English for several years might still say phrases like "Can you say Chinese?", "I am watching a book", and "Tomorrow I will look a movie."


Chinglish can be "created" by common patterns of grammatical errors. For example, excessive use of "the" when not needed (such as "The China is bigger than the France") and the excessive use of verbs with the "-ing" ending are common characteristics of Chinglish.

An excess use of "to", the use of "to" with modals (e.g. "I must to go"), the confusion of -ed and -ing adjectives (e.g. "I am very boring" vs. "I am very bored"; "I was surprised" vs. "I was surprising"), the overuse of "very" between "be" and an adjective (reflecting the use of "很" in Chinese), the use of "very" to modify verbs (e.g. "I very like it"), the use of the passive when the active is more appropriate, and wrong usage of verb tenses may also give rise to Chinglish phrases.

Often a Chinese grammatical pattern will be incorporated into English grammar, such as the classic examples of "I tomorrow go to Shanghai" or "I this morning eat breakfast".

Also, there is much confusion as to countable and non-countable nouns, use of plurals, and the use of "how much" and "how many" and "a lot of," "much" and "many." This leads to phrases such as "He has much money," "I want a soup" and "There are a lot of shoe."


Chinglish can also be more specifically a creole, that uses both English and Chinese vocabulary in the same sentence. This is particularly evident in areas that have both English and Chinese as official languages, such as Singapore and Hong Kong. (When specifically discussing the English dialect of Singapore, Singlish may be more appropriate.)

Chinglish Names

Some Chinese pick non-traditional English names, which they do not view as strange because they are not aware of English naming conventions.

Such names are derived from vocabulary they learned in their early English lessons, including names such as Apple, Space, Can, Sea, Mooncake, Magic, Spider, Thunder, Cloudy, Table, Bird, Eleven, Hifi, H20, Puppy and other names of animals, plants, weather phenomena, household appliances, days of the week or months. Some people have even unknowingly chosen swear words as names.

They might choose western products they like as their name, such as Cola or Nautica, or other more advanced words that may be picked for their sound or meaning such as Victory or Nation.

Also, names very easy to pronounce in Chinese, but not common in English, maybe be chosen, such as the very common name Coco.

Some others chose to use traditional English names but often pronounce it wrong or alter the spelling. For example, when the name Keith is often spelled as Keiv, Keif, or maybe even the more extreme Cliff.

Some chose names from other countries like Russian names or Japanese names such as Yuri or Jun. Since most European names are widely used in the English community, those will seem less "odd". However, Japanese names like Jun, pronounced like English name June, may cause problems in that they are unisex, whereas their English sound-alikes are traditionally bound to one sex.

These names may just be viewed as nicknames, and some Chinese may choose more common ones if they have to use their name in business or other more formal occasions.

Most (but not all) Chinese people living in Asia are given only Chinese names at birth, and choose their own English name at some point after they begin learning English (if they ever do). Although rare, some parents may name their child a Chinese sound translation of an English name, such as Wai-Man (Raymond) or On-Lei (Annie).

Language humour

Although most Chinglish phrases originated from poor English, plenty of Chinglish phrases were created as language humour. For example:

   1. Open the door see mountain (verbatim translation from a Chinese idiom, meaning "to speak straightforwardly" - 開門見山). Other such example may be "five flowers eight doors" (in Chinese, wǔ huā bā mén - 五花八門), which means "plentiful," and "people mountain people sea" (in Chinese, rén shan rén hai - 人山人海 ), meaning "a sea of people" or "a huge crowd".
   2. Un-ding-able (it means "can't stand it". 頂 ding in Cantonese means "to stand against")(in mainland China, when people use "ding" on internet mostly means "Strongly agree, most appreciated" probably because it resembles the sound used in cartoons when a light bulb lits up. Another possiblity is that when in replied a post in forums, the thread will be pushed up towards the top, the action can somehow be described with a word with a similar pronunciation.) (English: To concur; derivation possibly onomotopoeic.)
   3. You go see see lah (Go and have a look. - 你去睇睇啦) (please refer to Hong Kong English)

In early and mid-20th century, Chinglish was called "pidgin" (洋涇濱, or 洋泾浜) in Chinese, in a derogative manner.

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Chinglish is becoming a problem for major cities such as Beijing. In Beijing, in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the city authorities are clamping down on the usage of Chinglish and replacing it with proper English. Thus, signs that previously read: "To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty" may read, in proper English, "Caution - slippery path", et cetera. Some other examples include: "Oil gate" (filling station), "confirming distance" (keep space, distance verification), and so on and so forth.

It can also be bad for businesses who try to export their products using Chinglish to native English speaking countries, or conversely when a western business goes to China but relies on Chinese to be in charge of translation.

Cases of Chinglish
Anti-Earthquake Memorial
Anti-Earthquake Memorial
The City Bank Apartment Hotel
The City Bank Apartment Hotel

These cases are mere examples of Chinglish, where they are found and what they mean when correctly translated into English:

    * To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty. (Beijing) = Be careful, slippery slopes.
    * To put out Xuanda Expressway. To put in Jingzhang Expressway. (Xuanda Expressway) = Now leaving Xuanda Expressway, now entering Jingzhang Expressway.
    * Decimbing path. (Jingzhang Expressway) = Descent.
    * Rain or snow day. Bridge, slow-driving. (All expressways in Hebei) = Slow on bridge in case of rain or snow.
    * Oil gate. / Into. (4th Ring Road (Beijing)) = Filling station. / Entrance.
    * Smoking is prohibited if you will be fined 50 yuan. = Smoking is prohibited, penalties for violators is 50 yuan.
    * Please come down from your bicycle. = Please dismount from your bicycle.
    * If you have trouble ask for the policeman. or If in trouble find police = In case of trouble, dial the police.
    * Being urgent call 110 quickly. (Beijing) = In cases of emergency, please call 110. (110 = police phone line in China, equivalent to 911 in the USA and 999 in the UK.)
    * Complaining tel. (投诉电话)= Customer service telephone.
    * When you leave car, please turn off door and window, take your valuable object = Be sure to lock your doors and windows and take all valuables with you.
    * Engine room is serious place. = Engine room - Important.
    * Don't forget to take your thing. = Don't forget your personal belongings.
    * Visit in civilisation, pay attention to hygiene!(文明参观,注意卫生) This is a message mainly aimed at locals and other people who would otherwise visit somewhere in a sloppy manner.
    * Deformed man toilet. = Public toilet for the disabled.
    * Crippled restroom. = Public toilet for the disabled.
    * When you across hard you can ring TEL (number). = In case of emergency, please call (number).
    * Danger! Inhibition astraddle transgress. = Danger! No entry.
    * X Bank Shaoguan Cent Company (某银行韶关分公司) = X Bank Shaoguan Subsidiary
    * To run business (營業中 [lit. "operating"] - commonly seen sign in mainland China and Taiwan) = Open.
    * Drink tea (休息中 [lit. "resting"] - commonly seen sign in Taiwan) = Closed.
    * Many Function Hall (多功能室) (Shanghai) - Multifunctional Hall
    * We can't stand the sight of mattress fragrant grass = Don't step on the grass
    * Fragrant fragile walnut meat biscuits = type of walnut cookie, made by Dali Group
    * Burnt meat biscuit = type of meat flavoured biscuit
    * Please Drive Correctly = traffic sign reminding people to obey the traffic rules
    * New Shipu Hotel = not a hotel but a restaurant
    * Welcome to our fine restaurant = sign in a hotel room
    * No gambling promote leagal entertainment = anti-gambling propaganda poster by the Beijing police.
    * Convenient = instant noodles, (方便面)Beijing
    * Haw a thick soup = Hawthorn (made by a Chengde company)
    * Small two pots of heads = Erguotou(二锅头), a local spirit, appearing on a menu inside Oriental Plaza, Beijing
    * China smoke wine & A Smoke a Wine(中国烟酒) = Cigarette and wine shops, Beijing
    * Japanesque Milk Cracker = Japanese was spelt incorrectly as Japanesque.
    * The luxuring nothing rail remote controlling stretches out and draws back the door(豪华无线遥控伸缩门) = Label found on an electronic retractable security gate in Beijing.
    * Shopping's center = Shopping centre entrance in Beijing.
    * Do not be occupying while stabilizing = Do not use the toilet while the train is stopping at a station. (Train toilets)
    * Deep fried ghost variant, deep fried devil and oil fried ghost =油炸鬼= commonly known in 'proper english' as a 'Chinese donut.' It is not a donut(i.e not round, more like a submarine sandwich); basically a savoury flavoured "deep fried foot-long dough." It is a popular chinese breakfast item. Usually served with congee(rice porridge) or soy milk. You will encounter this term only in Cantonese speaking parts. The Mandarin terminology does not translate the same.
    * Disabled Elevators (残疾人电梯) = Elevator for handicapped people. (CKS International Airport, Taipei)
    * Speaking cellphone strictly prohibited when thunderstorm - (Beijing) = talking on cellphones disallowed during thunderstorms
    * No entry in peacetime = Emergency exit (Beijing Capital International Airport)
    * No noising and No speak aloud = No yelling (Beijing)
    * The too longer, too higher, overweight and the dangerous things are not allowed to be carried = Escalator, Xidan, Beijing
    * The older, the children, the deformities, the patients and the pregnant women should take the escalator with his guardian together. = Escalator, Xidan, Beijing
    * Xin Zhong Guo Kids Stuff = shop selling commodities for children, Wangfujing, Beijing
    * Question Authority = If you have questions, please ask the official in charge...

Chinglish in Taiwan

Chinglish is also quite prevalent in Taiwan. In Taiwan it is more often known as "台灣英文", literally "Taiwanese English" or mockingly "Formosan English". Characteristics of Taiwanese English include always answering questions in a very regulated style:

"Do you like pizza?" "Yes, I do." "Do you like basketball?" "No, I don't."

There's also a well known parody song of the English alphabet going by the lines of "A B C D, dog bites pig" in Taiwan.
Hey,so delicious, Let us try it fast.
Hey,so delicious, Let us try it fast.
Burned Meat Biscuits
Burned Meat Biscuits

Phrases used by native English speakers

Long time no see is often attributed as a good example of Chinglish being used by native English speakers. The phrase is said to have originated from 好耐冇見(啦)(Cantonese)/好久不見(了)(Mandarin). These Chinglish phrases was used by dock workers to greet sailors from overseas.

It began in early 1900's when British and American warships and trading ships often stayed at Chinese docks, and through pidgin communications with dock workers, started to communicate in what is now known as Chinglish. The sailors used the phrase long time no see as a joke when they got home and somehow the phrase became widely used even in English-speaking countries. A more grammatically correct phrase of English should be I haven't seen you for ages..

While this story is substantiated by other sources [1], this may just be a myth as there are no known records of the origin. The phrase has also been said to originate from trade with American Indians. Similar seemingly gramatically "incorrect" phrases (such as "no pain, no gain" or "the more, the merrier") are common and native to English; thus "long time no see" may have been just a coincidence.

"Chinglish" is also used to describe the broken Chinese interspersed with English used by westernized Chinese (e.g. American born Chinese) who are no longer fluent in their parents' language and must use English words to supplement their limited Chinese vocabulary.

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Post time 2005-12-24 13:17:18 |Display all floors

Thanks for sharing! Merry Christmas! Tumu GG


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