Chinglish – word for word translation.

What induces inhabitants of People’s Republic of China, third largest in area and the first in population, to learn English? First of all, they are motivated by the fact that English language is the most widely used by European and American employers. Unfortunately, the differences in word order and grammar do not allow them to learn it easily and pleasantly.

Major obstacle in learning occurs to be articulation of the consonants „r” and „l” due to the fact that Chinese learners have got problems with proper pronunciation of retroflex sound „r” so they tend to switch it with sound „l” which results in mispronouncing words, for instance: the word „rust” would sound like „lust”. Likewise, differentiating between singular and plural noun forms is a humongous barrier. In Chinese language the plural noun form is made by numeral classifiers or by adding an amount indicating adverb, i.e.: more than one would be expressed as follows:

  • I have one knife, hand, tooth
  • two knife, hand, foot, tooth
  • many knife, hand, foot, tooth etc.

There is also a situation with indefinite articles „a” and „an” since the complete absence of articles in Chinese grammar. Therefore, they only understand the usage of „the” article. This leads to many problems in the study of countable and uncountable nouns and possessive pronouns. As we all know, Chinese in a tonal language where there is assigned a tone to each syllable forcing appropriate voice modulation. Accordingly, a single syllable may have several different meanings depending on how it is pronounced. In English and Polish a tone is used only to express emotions or emphasis.

Chinese are often being confused about confusing adjectives in English. They rarely see difference between adjectives with „–ing” or „–ed” endings, which results in:

  • they are boring during the film
  • they are not interesting in stamp collecting
  • their travel around the world must be excited

There is no wonder that all those issues led to creating language form called Chinglish which refers to English strongly influenced by Chinese. This system characterizes a huge amount of ill-formed or meaningless written articulations which are visible from every corner of Chinese cities. Chinese make mistakes and calques because of their habit of translating word for word without conveying the sense of the original word or sentence. Chinese make mistakes and calques because of their habit of translating word for word without conveying the sense of the original word or sentence. Mandarin, Cantonese and Shanghai standards integrated with English give us an explosive mixture which sometimes entertains and some other times frightens.

Finally, a little curio: Chinese don’t say NO, unless they want to express that you don’t have to thank for a favour: „not at all”. If they want deny somebody’s request they have to give as evasive answer as possible in order not to offend the person they speak to. This is why they use a whole lot of euphemisms and masking words as „maybe, probably, I will try, etc.” or you can also hear out a whole story about why something cannot be done. Please note that forcing Chinese to say „no” can quickly end up a friendship.

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