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Chinglish

Chinglish is a portmanteau of the words Chinese and English and refers to spoken or written English which is influenced by Chinese. There are an estimated 300 to 500 million users and/or learners of English in the People's Republic of China.

The term "Chinglish" is mostly used in popular contexts and may have pejorative or derogatory connotations. The terms "Chinese English" and "China English" are also used, mostly in the academic community, to refer to Chinese varieties of English .

History

English first arrived in China in the 1630s, when British traders arrived in South China. Chinese Pidgin English was spoken first in the areas of Macao and Guangzhou, later spreading north to Shanghai by the 1830s. "Yangjing Bang English" in Chinese (洋涇濱, or 洋泾浜) derives from the name of a former creek in Shanghai near the Bund where local workers communicated with English-speaking foreigners in pidgin.

Chinese Pidgin English began to decline in the late 19th century as standard English began to be taught in the country's education system. English language teaching has been widespread throughout modern Chinese history- it was made the country's main foreign language in 1982.

In Beijing, in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the city authorities clamped down on the usage of Chinglish and replaced it with standard English. Among other examples, signs that previously read: "To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty" may read "Caution - slippery path". Other notable examples include: "Oil gate" (accelerator), "confirming distance" (keep space, distance verification), and so on.

Features

Pronunciation

In most dialects of Chinese, voiced obstruent consonants (/b/, /d/, /g/, /dʒ/) do not exist properly. These dialects distinguish unvoiced aspirate and unvoiced unaspirate obstruents. Most Chinese perceive voiced obstruents as unvoiced unaspirates (e.g. /b/ becomes /p/), while unvoiced obstruents in other languages are all perceived as aspirate (e.g. /p/ becomes /pʰ/. This is reflected in several Romanization systems, notably Hanyu Pinyin (but not Wade-Giles). Thus, "buy" is pronounced /paɪ/, while "pie" remains /pʰaɪ/. When unaspirated obstruents occur in English (albeit non-phonemically) as in "spin" (/spɪn/), Chinese speakers would still pronounce them as if they were aspirate (/sɹ.ˈpʰin/). This applies equally to affricates, where "change", normally pronounced /tʃʰɛɪndʒ/, becomes /ˈtʃʰɛn.tʃi/ (or /ˈtɕʰɛn.tɕi/ if palatized).

In Cantonese pronunciation, some consonants are nowadays changed into other, for example N is often pronounced as L. Voiced sounds (/v/ and the /ʒ/ sound - eg. 'pleasure') cause difficulty. In speech, there is also a tendency to add the sound "see" or "chi" at the end of certain singular letters, such as the letters "S" and "H" ('es-see' and 'ay-chi' respectively).

Similarly, there are no syllable codas (consonants at the end of syllables) in Mandarin with the exception of the "n" sound. When encountering such codas, a Mandarin speaker will either modify the consonant to form a separate syllable, or drop it altogether. Thus, for example, CCTV presenters pronounce the letters "L", "M", and "N" as ("ai-le"), ("ai-mu") and [ən] ("n") respectively.

As all varieties of Chinese are tonal languages, Chinese speakers sometimes apply tonal attributes to English, which is normally a stress-based language. Stressed syllables are generally given higher and falling tones over unstressed syllables. This imparts a "staccato" quality to the accent, a feature shared by speakers of other tonal (or pitch-stressed) languages.

Vocabulary

Examples include "to put in Jingzhang Expressway" instead of "entering Jingzhang Expressway"), and the use of "emergent" to mean "emergency" or "urgent". As another example, when something is explained, the English learner may respond with "Oh, I know," while the appropriate response would be "Oh, I see." This is because "知道 zhīdao" is usually translated as know regardless of context. "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."

The English words see, watch, read and look at are all represented by the Chinese word “看 kàn", and may be used interchangeably. The situation of speak, say and talk is similar. Phrases like "Can you say Chinese?", "I am watching a book", and "Tomorrow I will look a movie" may be common.

Another example is "turn on/off" versus "open/close". In Chinese, "turn on" (in the sense of operating a switch or a machine) and "open" are rendered by the same character, and so are "turn off" and "close". The two terms may be used interchangeably.

"Welcome to" is one of the more noticeable cases of Chinglish, especially on mainland China. This is used as a direct translation in Chinese, "歡迎". It can mean "we invite you to" or "you are welcome to", and is used more as an incentive to the activity introduced or as a form of "thank you". Its use is almost always cordial, inviting, or otherwise positive. Example:

  • Welcome to ride Line 52 Bus = Thank you for riding Bus Line 52, or You are welcome to ride Bus Line 52.

Grammar

Examples include:

  • using "me is" instead of "I am" (such as "Me is Jack")
  • using awkward gerunds (such as "No Noising")
  • excessive use of "the" when not needed (such as "The China is bigger than the France", "The France is bigger than the Switzerland")
  • excessive use of verbs with the "-ing" ending (such as "Please do not climbing"; in the photo above)
  • excessive use of "to", the use of "to" with modals, preserving "to" in infinitive form even when unnecessary (e.g. "I must to go")
  • confusion of -ed and -ing adjectives (e.g. "I am very boring" vs. "I am very bored"; "I was surprising" vs. "I was surprised")
  • 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 singular when the plural would be more fitting (various examples can be seen in the park regulations above)

The above examples reflect the influence of Chinese syntax and grammar; in Chinese, verbs are not conjugated (either for tense or pronoun), and there is no equivalent word for "the."

Comma splices can occur frequently. This is due to the fact that in Chinese writing, the comma (逗號 ",") is all that is sufficient to terminate a clause without needing to follow with a conjunction. The equivalent of full stop (句號 "。") is usually reserved for the end of an idea, which theoretically may last as long as a paragraph.

Chinglish names

Some Chinese pick non-traditional English names. Such names may be derived from vocabulary they learned in their early English lessons, including names such as Apple, Space, Can, Sea, Mooncake, Magic, Koala, Spider, Thunder, Cloudy, Airy, Rainbow, Table, Bird, Eleven, Hifi, Ice, Puppy, Well and other names of animals, plants, weather phenomena, household appliances, days of the week or months. They might choose 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, Nation or even Cemetery and Satan. Often names have a wrong spelling such as Windy as opposed to Wendy and Sherry instead of Cherry.

Some choose Russian, Japanese, or Hispanic names, such as Yuri, Jun, or Antonio. Since most styles European names are widely used in English-speaking communities, these will seem less "odd" than other non-traditional names. 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 phonetic translation of an English name, such as Suzie (Sook-Si in Cantonese), Raymond (Wai-Ming in Cantonese), Annie (On-Lei in Cantonese), Annie (An-ni or Anne in Mandarin), Joanne (Jia-An in Mandarin), Ivy (Ai-Li in Mandarin), Eileen (Yi-Lin in Mandarin), Pauline (Poh-Lin in Cantonese), Charlie (Jia-Li in Mandarin), Elaine (Yi-Lan in Mandarin), Maggie (Mei-Qi in Mandarin), Carmen (Kah Man in Cantonese), Ada (Ai-Da in Mandarin), or Joey (Jo Yee in Cantonese). This can be observed from the majority of Cantopop singers from Hong Kong adopting an English name that is somewhat a transliteration of their Chinese name as pronounced in Cantonese. For example: 陳奕迅 Chan Yik-Shun (Simplified: 陈奕迅; Jyutping: can yik seon; IPA:/'tsɐn 'jɪk 'sɵn/) is Eason Chan, 謝安琪 Tse On-Kei (Simplified: 谢安琪; Jyutping: ze on kei; IPA: /'tsɛː 'ɔːn 'kʰei/) is Kay Tse, and 容祖兒 Yung Cho-Yee (Simplified: 容祖儿; Jyutping: jung zou ji; IPA: /'jʊŋ 'tɕou 'jiː/) is Joey Yung.

Examples of Chinglish expressions

The following are several examples of Chinglish:

  • To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty. (注意安全 坡道路滑) (Beijing) = Be careful, slippery slopes.
  • Please Steek Gently = Please close door gently (关门 / 關門 is an entry in a Chinese-English dictionary yielding steek, archaic.)
  • Fuck the Certain Price of Goods (干货计价处 / 乾[幹]貨計價處) = A translation of "Dry Goods Pricing Department" on a sign at supermarket in China. The merger of the traditional character for "dry" (乾) and the character meaning "to do" (幹), also commonly used to denote the vulgarity "fuck," into one single simplified character (干) [dry] likely led to this confusion. The characters comprising the word for "pricing" or "valuation" (计价 / 計價) can be translated separately as "certain" (计 / 計) and "price" (价 / 價).
  • Financial Affairs is Everywhere Long (财务处处长) = Chief Financial Officer. Though this word (财务处处长) should be separated as "Financial Office" (财务处) + "Officer of" (处长), it could also literally be separated as "Financial Affairs" (财务) + "Everywhere" (处处) + "Long" (长), thus the confusion. This is most likely product of machine translation, for no Chinese people would understand the word in such a way.

References

See also

External links

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