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.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baurain - The Impacts of Christian ESL Teachers' Religious Beliefs.

Brad Baurain, author of the excellent article "Christian Witness and Respect for Persons" in the JLIE last year, is working on a study about Christian ESL teacher's beliefs. If you want to contribute, have a look here:

The estimated time for filling out the survey is 30 minutes.

BONUS: Check out this essay by James Waller of Whitworth University on Christian scholarship in the "secular" academy. I had some problems with the link but eventually got it to work. Hopefully*, you can figure it out.

(*in the "correct" and colloquial sense)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Chinese EFL Journal

Apparently I am now on the editorial board of the newly launched Chinese EFL Journal. And, apparently, I'm a "professor." Really? OK by me...

Friday, June 13, 2008

English Songs in China

From a Chinese college student's blog:

“I find that I begin to love English songs very much.And when I listen to the English song that can make me dance,I always feel very happy. Now,I think I fall in love with English songs,and I start to love this subjuct-English....So,from now on,I will try my best to study English grammar and listen English songs in my spare time in order to improve my English speaking and writing skill."

The notion of "English songs" has been fascinating to me ever since I came to China, for two reasons. First, I have for the most part never heard any of the songs that students listen to, know, and love, as "English songs," which makes me wonder where these songs come from, how they got to China, and why they are popular here. Second, a lot of students seem to have the belief that listening to these songs is a good way to improve their English. (The same is said of watching movies in English.) Whether this is actually true remains to be seen.

I have a suspicion that the construction of "English songs" as a genre has something to do with "English culture," itself a construction that has a lot more to do with prestige, economics, ice cream, romance, and brand-name clothes than it does with the English language. (This is just a thought-doodle, not a genuine scholarly observation, mind you.)

Some questions that interest me:

- Why are the most popular "English songs" in China songs that most people in "English-speaking" countries are unfamiliar with. For example, some of the most popular "English songs" among my students are: "She" by a German group called Groove Coverage; "Pretty Boy" by a Norwegian group called M2M; "Take Me to Your Heart" by the Danish band Michael Learns to Rock.

- Somewhat more unscientifically, why are the most popular "English songs" songs that I totally hate? Chinese pop music is mostly what we would call "adult contemporary" and/or "teenybopper," and the English-language music that is popular here tends to fall along those same genre lines. Westlife, Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, et al are hugely popular.

- What exactly do students believe is the benefit of listening to these songs vis-a-vis their general English abilities, their performance in English classes, their scores on exams, etc?

- What are some non-academic reasons that students like to listen to "English songs" ?

More thinking about this subject to come, which, unfortunately, means I probably should start listening to more of it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

When Students Get Mad and/or Even

Since I started teaching, I've really only had one or two run-ins with disgruntled students. (Lucky, I guess!) Today, one guy (who frequently misses my writing class) wasn't doing the assigned activity, so I went to take a look at his essay. Turns out he had basically written me a note accusing me of failing him out of spite last semester; ergo, he explains, he chooses, frequently, not to come to my class. And he doesn't come because he isn't interested in it, he writes.

This really took me by surprise, and after thinking about it for a while, I realized that what bothers me is not that he doesn't like my class, or that he doesn't come to it (I mean, that bothers me a little, but it's his choice), or even that he thinks I failed him "on purpose" (which is impossible, since I don't know whose exam I'm grading when I grade the finals). It's that he waited five months to tell me that he was unhappy with his grade and the class. I told him that if he had a problem with his grade, I would have been happy to talk about it -- a few months ago, which might have prevented all kinds of problems.

I have to ask myself, could I have done something to prevent this? I try to make myself accessible to the students, but from the beginning of the year, I've been of the mind that one-on-one time is impossible, since I have a total of about 400 students in the 9 classes that I teach (only 4 classes are writing, though). I encourage questions, I give students my email address and QQ number, and I give specific, targeted feedback on essays -- but I can't make students come to me if they have "issues," and I sometimes just can't know there's a problem.

At the end of last term, I made a tentative plan to have one-on-one meetings with the writing students whose scores were consistently low or who didn't turn in assignments. I scrapped it (wrongly, I think) due this misguided "oh, there are too many students" belief. Now I'm wishing I hadn't.

Incidentally, the other run-ins I've had were:

1) A student refused to get up to do a group dialogue when I told his group to go sooner than he had expected. Eventually he calmed down and did his thing a few minutes later.

2) A student was talking continuously and loudly over another student's speech -- which was the final exam. I ended up yelling at the kid (who really should not be an English major, but that's another story) and completely spooking the one who was giving the speech.