Monday, June 22, 2009

Notes on China English

Just got done with a productive meeting with the student who's been helping me with this "State of China English Research" project. Interesting to note he is a NNS and I am an NS, yet he supports NS-based pedagogy and I support NNS-based pedagogy. Irony!

Nearing the end, or really the beginning, of this project, which will be presented in Ningbo in a couple of days, a few observations:

1. Almost every author writes about the distinction between China English (中国英语) and Chinese English aka Chinglish (中式英语) -- but there is little empirical evidence given toward actually describing/defining these two things. I'm inclined to agree with Hu (2004), who says that China English - Chinglish is a continuum, and one which is not (yet) well-defined. Of course, she doesn't actually give a concrete description based on empirical evidence either.

2. And really, no one has. Nearly every article (with the exception of maybe 5%) contains only anecdotal examples of CE, very often quoted from Ge (1980), the first person to propose the idea. These are terms like "the four modernizations" and "Mr. Science." Most articles say CE has unique vocabulary, syntax, grammar, pronunciation, discource, etc, but almost no one even comes close to defining how it is unique in any of these areas.

3. Overall, the percentage of articles based on empirical research is higher in international journals than in Chinese journals, but not much higher.

4. There is not much overlap between which scholars publish in international journals and which publish in Chinese journals, although with very few exceptions, all researchers are Chinese. The significant exceptions are Hu Xiaoqiong and Jiang Yajun. The most prolific authors on CE in Chinese journals (Jin Huikang, 5 articles, Liu Xiangqing, 3 articles and Qiu Lizhong, 3 articles) do not publish in international journals.

5. Overwhelmingly, articles on CE are not published in "key" or "core" Chinese journals. I haven't done the final tally, but I think there are  at most 5 out of 105 articles.

6. On a related note, I count only 3-5 authors from key universities in China. This means essentially that those who have some degree of power and influence in the field are not, by and large, pursuing this work. This suggests that there is not much interest in promoting China English for pedagogical (or other) purposes at the national level. (This jives with Li (2007), who says that essentially only researchers support a China English - based pedagogy, while most teachers, administrators, testing bodies, government officials, and parents don't).

7. Most authors seem to argue for the benefits CE will bring to two fields: English teaching in China and translation of Chinese to English. I haven't done a count but I think pedagogy is quite a bit higher than translation in terms of numbers. A lot of the articles also seem to have no clear goals or implications apart from arguing that "China English is an objective reality" (a title of one of the articles) and that it is in some vague way a good thing.

Those are the observations for today. Tomorrow is day to write...a whole lot.