HY­BRID VO­CAB­U­LARY

Chi­nese-to-English word-for-word trans­la­tions catch­ing on

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Wei Xi

With English be­ing one of the three most im­por­tant ma­jor cour­ses through­out a Chi­nese stu­dent’s school ca­reer, along­side Man­darin and

and math, how to ap­ply this lan­guage in their daily lives can be a headache for peo­ple of all ages in China. In­ter­est­ingly, more and more Chi­nese ex­pres­sions are now be­ing ad­mit­ted into the English lan­guage lex­i­con, such as “lose face” (diu lian) and “long time no see” (hao jiu bu jian). Such di­rect Chi­nese-to-English word-for-word trans­la­tions is col­lo­qui­ally known as Chinglish.

Most re­cently, “add oil!” (jia you), an ex­pres­sion widely used in China for en­cour­age­ment, sim­i­lar to “come on!,” was in­cluded into the Ox­ford English Dic­tionary. As for­eign lan­guages are af­fect­ing and im­pact­ing each other in a more pro­found way in to­day’s global vil­lage, will Chinglish catch on in the West just as English has in China? Or per­haps Chinglish will some­day serve as a univer­sal sec­ond lan­guage much in the way that Esperanto at­tempted to last cen­tury.

Metropoli­tan re­cently set out for a Chinglish test on the street of Beijing. We showed a list of 10 very pop­u­lar Chinglish terms to young for­eign and Chi­nese passersby to gauge their knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing of this un­usual hy­brid vo­cab­u­lary.

Bri­tish na­tional Paul is a tourist who just ar­rived in Beijing. Com­ing from a na­tive English­s­peak­ing coun­try, Paul was in­ter­ested in tak­ing our lit­tle test. His mis­un­der­stand­ing of “adding oil” was a process in cook­ing, but he guessed cor­rectly that “los­ing face” means to be em­bar­rassed and “laugh die me” is sim­i­lar to laugh­ing to death.

Know is know

Paul guessed in­cor­rectly to all our other ques­tions, to which he con­ceded “Sorry I’m re­ally bad at this test. My Chinglish is very bad.”

Our sec­ond con­tes­tant was a Dan­ish ci­ti­zen who only gave his Chi­nese name, Yang Guang. Yang has been liv­ing\ in China for

two years and al­ready speaks flu­ent Pu­tonghua. It’s no sur­prise, then, that Yang got many an­swers cor­rect.

For ex­am­ple, when it came to “peo­ple mountain peo­ple sea,” he not only gave the cor­rect an­swer as there are too many peo­ple and be­ing very crowded, but also added that it was like the sit­u­a­tion dur­ing the Chi­nese Na­tional Day hol­i­days.

How­ever, Yang might be great at Pu­tonghua, but his Chinglish abil­i­ties only scored a 30. Fed­erico from Aus­tria has been study­ing Chi­nese in Beijing for two months, and Ulli re­cently ar­rived to visit him.

Hav­ing never be­fore en­coun­tered any Chinglish terms on our list, the two friends used their imag­i­na­tions, guess­ing three cor­rectly: “laugh die me,” “no zuo no die” and “know is know, no know is no know, is know.”

Chi­nese re­ac­tions

This video about peo­ple’s un­der­stand­ing of Chinglish be­came very pop­u­lar on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia re­cently, with a to­tal view count of 4.5 mil­lion views on Weibo alone.

In the video’s com­ments sec­tion, many Chi­nese ex­pressed that they had no idea that so many English ex­pres­sions were in fact trans­la­tions of Chi­nese.

Some ne­ti­zens dis­cussed if cul­tural con­fi­dence is the key to a suc­cess­ful trans­la­tion. “The Ja­panese have lots of lo­cal words trans­lated from Ja­panese pro­nun­ci­a­tions, such as judo, ninja and kanji,” ne­ti­zen Fan Zhen­dong wrote, adding that such words are also well-known in the West.

“But we Chi­nese, be­ing afraid that for­eign­ers may not un­der­stand us, turn our unique ex­pres­sions such as ‘add oil’ into Chinglish in­stead of keep­ing the orig­i­nal Chi­nese,” Fan wrote.

“Very soon,” Fan con­cluded, “peo­ple will for­get where these terms come from and may even think they are from the English vo­cab­u­lary.

The key is that the Chi­nese lack con­fi­dence.”

Photo: VCG

As dif­fer­ent lan­guages are af­fect­ing and im­pact­ing each other in a pro­found way in to­day's global vil­lage, more and more Chi­nese ex­pres­sions are now be­ing ad­mit­ted into the English lan­guage lex­i­con. Add oil

Photo: VCG

While some Chi­nese are glad that Chinglish has be­come more widely ac­cepted, some are wor­ried that it dis­plays a lack of cul­tural con­fi­dence.

Paul from the UK

Fed­erico (left) and Ulli from Aus­tria

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