Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Chinglish" vs. "China English"

Finally found a sensible distinction between the two. I am still not sure what, if any, is supposed to be the difference between "Chinese English" and "China English." I don't have access to English Today, which has at least one article on the subject. But anyway, here's what Mingjun Lu says on the subject (she sees "Chinglish" and "Chinese English" as synonymous). I got this from a website at the University of Toronto, but I'm unaware of Lu's current affiliation.

Chinglish is also called “Chinese English,” and it is a nativised English noted for its incomprehensibility. Hu Xiaoqiong defines it a kind of pidgin “whose words are ungrammatically strung together, with often inappropriate lexis and probably only a partially comprehensible pronunciation.”
on the other hand,
To establish a unique variety of English in China, critics coin the word “China English” to signify this new identity, which finds an eloquent articulation Li Wenzhong’s definition (1993:19-20), “China English has normative English as its core but with Chinese characteristics in lexicon, syntax and discourse, and it is employed to express China- specific things through means of transliteration, borrowing and semantic regeneration but without interference from the Chinese language.

Finally, Lu points out probably the most crucial issue vis-a-vis the use of English in China today:

CE remains in an unstandardised state, nor is it known and accepted by the ordinary people, the students, and even a majority of the teachers...But on the other hand, CE is widely used in an unofficial manner, as is shown in those unauthorized grammar manuals and class facilitating materials. This paradoxical position makes it both necessary and urgent to identify CE’s position at the administrative and pedagogical levels, for the gap between its uncodified status and its wide use not only impedes the learners’ language competence at home but also hinders the acceptance of CE as a distinctive variety of English internationally. A systematic promotion of CE through a pedagogical syllabus at the college level is intended to advance both the learners’ language proficiency and CE’s independent status.

This is a really smart article. Read the rest of "ELT in China and a 'China English' Model" here.

In related news, my editing of the "Chinglish" entry on Wikipedia continues. There is still a long way to go, but I have learned a lot in researching this, and it's nice to have a semi-practical reason to do all the reading.

Bonus: how much of this is really "Chinglish" that obscures meaning and intelligibility, and how much is just our pet peeves as "native" speakers of standard English(es)? I ask myself this often, and my answer is changing, which will surely affect the way I grade writing in the future.