Saturday, October 15, 2011

Interpretations of “Chinglish"

One of the smartest papers on language ideology re English in China that I've read. My only beef is the emphasis on "learners" and spoken English when I think it's arguable that it is legit to call some CE speakers legitimate 'users' rather than learners, plus there is a lot more going on than speaking. He notes this, but I'd just like to see a clearer distinction made between "somebody made a funny translation on a sign" and "students make mistakes." These are almost totally conflated in popular culture, media, online, etc. I'm not saying Henry overgeneralizes -- he susses out this phenomenon better than almost anyone else. Here's the abstract:

As a linguistic curiosity, Chinglish has long fascinated native speakers of English, prompting numerous studies that analyze its form with a view towards either eliminating it or accepting it as a viable Standard English variant. In this article, I examine how various social groups involved in foreign language education in China, including Chinese students, foreign teachers and linguists, enregister Chinglish as a linguistic variety. I argue that Chinglish is not distinguished by the presence or absence of any particular linguistic feature, but a label produced in the intersubjective engagements between language learners and native speakers. Chinglish is structured by and reinforces the relations of expertise within the Chinese English language speech community, thus representing larger anxieties about nationalism and modernization in a global context.

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