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What is Chinglish and How this Funny Language Started?


Have you ever heard about the term “Chinglish“? It refers to a type of English with Chinese vocabulary, grammar, expression habits, and is a “special language” with Chinese characteristics. “good good study, day day up” and “Add Oil” are one of those that would leave you to wonder “What are they talking about”.

Fruite Leather Suitcase Chinglish
“Fruit Leather Suitcase”? What a special product they have made!  Actually the meaning of the Chinese characters: Trash Bin for Fruit Peels

The reasons for the generation of Chinglish can be roughly divided into objective and subjective types.

Objective Reasons: some scholars put forward the theory of language transfer (or linguistic interference). Language transfer refers to the phenomenon that when learners use a second language, they express their ideas with the help of the pronunciation, word meaning, structural rules or habits of their mother tongue.

In addition to language factors, language transfer also includes the influence of thinking mode, cultural tradition, social history, and other aspects.

If the language rules of mother tongue and foreign language are consistent, the rule transfer of mother tongue will have a positive impact on the target language, which is called positive transfer. If the language rules of the mother tongue do not conform to the foreign language habits, it will have a negative impact on foreign language learning, that is, negative transfer.

Chinese and English belong to two language families of distinctly different characteristics. Chinese belongs to Sino-Tibetan language family and is quite different from the Indo-European languages (such as English, German, etc.), which will inevitably bring about great negative transfer influence to learners.

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Chinglish is a kind of language form under the influence of Chinese negative transfer. Or we can say that the negative transfer of Chinese is an important cause of Chinglish.

Subjective Reasons: if English learners do not have a good understanding of the linguistic features of English and the national culture behind it, it will lead to errors and errors in language use. According to Zhuang Yichuan, an older generation of the translator, the main reasons for Chinglish are; unclear understanding of the original text, and only literal correspondence; Not familiar with the characteristics of English, using Chinese collocation and structure.

About Machine Translations: Many foreign tourists have noticed some very funny signs in English when they are traveling in China. This is because many organizations in China directly use machine translation to process information in order to save cost and time when making bilingual signage. At the current level of machine intelligence, many of the translations have produced surprisingly funny results.

Funny Chinglish
The Chinese text actually means: Hakka Food Pot

There is a professional translation agency that had compiled a collection for these hilarious translations. The page is as follows: Take a few minutes to browse it and you will just get a full day of laughter.

what is chinglish

Some of the characteristics of Chinglish

Chinglish mainly features in its “special” vocabulary, syntax and discourse.

Vocabulary issues: There are great differences between English and Chinese in terms of word meaning and word usage. We often make mistakes in word usage, such as incorrect words, improper collocation, part of speech confusion, word absence and improper rhetoric. Among them, “collocation is not appropriate” is particularly common, especially in English writing or translation is easy to make Chinglish mistakes.

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Many English words have fixed collocation, which is different from the collocation rules of Chinese words. For example, “drink soup” and “learn knowledge” mentioned above are Chinglish caused by improper collocation.

The syntax is mainly reflected in word order error, voice error, single sentence and so on. The object of syntactic study is the constituent parts of a sentence and the rules of its arrangement. When we organize English sentences, we usually think of Chinese first and then turn into English, so we naturally apply Chinese sentence patterns to English sentences.

Text issues: Text is composed of more than one language sentence or paragraph, between various components among them, in the form is (Cohesion) of Cohesion, be semantically coherent (Coherence). English writing emphasizes clear structure, coherent discourse, strong logicality, and the need to cut to the chase.

Directions: for this part, you are allowed 30 minutes to write a composition on the topic “three paragraphs”. And the language composition when the topic is to consider the whole idea of the article, the beginning, the text, the end of the three can point.

What Efforts Should People Make to Reduce the Occurrence of Chinglish?

For Chinese learners whose mother tongue is not English, Chinglish is sometimes an inevitable linguistic phenomenon. And everyone does, inevitably and imperceptibly, with little short-term improvement. No matter what level of English learners, more or less may make Chinglish mistakes.

To reduce or avoid Chinglish as much as possible, the best way is to contact the original English as much as possible or input a large number of authentic English, in order to adapt to the way of thinking in English, accumulate the correct vocabulary and expression, deepen the understanding of western culture.

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Such as reading original English materials, such as books, magazines, newspapers or watching English movies and television.

In addition, the original text should be carefully analyzed, more reference to the dictionary and relevant information, to avoid literal meaning. Don’t just understand the meaning of words. Grammar, idioms, and collocations are also important.

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