Language puritans fear ‘Chinglish’ corrupting Mandarin

English has become more popular in China as almost all schools offer some level of coaching.

Written by Agencies | Beijing | Published: August 29, 2012 6:16 pm

As English language is beginning to take root among the younger generation in China,puritans of the Chinese language fear steady emergence of “Chinglish”,with more English words mixing up with Mandarin.

Over 100 Chinese scholars have signed a petition calling for removal of English words from an authoritative Chinese dictionary,reigniting a debate on language purity.

Fu Zhenguo,a senior journalist with the state-run People’s Daily and one of the organisers of the petition,said that if the Chinese people ignore the inclusion of words like “NBA” and “GDP” in their language and do nothing to exclude

them from the dictionary,the language they use will end up as a bizarre mixture of Chinese and English.

“When the English language absorbed the Chinese vocabulary,it used pinyin,the phonetic system that romanises Chinese characters,instead of the Chinese characters themselves,” he said.

“So why do we take in these English acronyms and words without translating them into Chinese characters?” he asked.

Purists believe that Mandarin which remained insulated for centuries,began feeling the onslaught of globalisation as China integrated more in the international markets emerging as the second largest economy.

English has become more popular in China as almost all top schools offer some level of coaching in the language.

The face of Beijing changed after the 2008 Olympic Games as almost all public places including metro stations,road signs and names of market places have English sign boards besides Mandarin.

Many fear that the steady inroads by English will convert their once pure language into “Chinglish”,as the Anglican language did in several countries round the world,

leaving a trail of its influence on them.

However,the Chinese language has never been entirely pure,English or not.

The words “dang” (“political party”),”jieji” (“class,” as in social strata) and “douzheng” (“struggle”) are borrowed from Japanese,while “dejia” (the German Bundesliga) and “yingchao” (the English Premier League) are from Western languages.

Fu’s concerns were met with disapproval by Mei Deming,a professor of the English language at Shanghai International Studies University.

“Maybe they are a little old-fashioned,” Mei said.

“Language is always developing while absorbing new elements,” he said.

Mei believes introducing English words to the Chinese dictionary is fine as long as communication is not impeded.

“For another thing,it should not be decided by these experts. It should be decided by the users of the language themselves,” he said.

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