It appears that the government is having difficulty accepting the integration of English words into, and the resulting ‘defilement’ of, mainstream Chinese language, all the while bemoaning the fact that Mandarin isn’t taking the same hold abroad. Where has it all gone wrong?

The People’s Daily the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party has attempted to put a positive spin on the ‘infiltration’ of Chinese words into English language. However, we're not sure we consider urbandictionary.com the bastion of the English (read: Chinglish) language they do, cataloguing a language peppered with words such as ‘gelivable’ (awesome), ‘zhuangbility’ (boastfulness) and ‘shability’ (foolishness), none of which are in common usage far beyond Sanlitun. And that's only three of the 7.7 million entries on the site.

English words such as Wi-fi and ubiquitous iBlank gadgets receive of the majority of the scorn but are absorbed not only for their ease in pronunciation but also because they are brands, willfully maintaining their core identification through the motions of capitalism and daily use. Online, users understand this and have mocked the attempt to eradicate the habit.

It is safe to say that it is people’s exposure to these words that allow them to settle and enter everyday diction. As The South China Morning Post points out, Western shows such as Downton Abbey, Sherlock and The Big Bang Theory are also becoming increasingly popular and are teaching younger generations vernacular and slang, albeit from 1900-circa England, which might explain why I meet so many Victorias.

Conversely, Westerners at home rarely stumble across Chinese words in their day-to-day lives and on the Internet unless they’re keeping up with bad anti-conspiracy FBI awareness videos. Pronunciation is another major issue. If you’re not versed in how to get your tongue around pinyin then Chinese words can often appear daunting or downright inscrutable.

The Wall Street Journal points out that the majority of Chinese words that entered mainstream usage in English did so before the 1950s – words such as ketchup, kowtow and gung ho – and even most of these came from Cantonese, presumably because of the Hong Kong-British trade and migration.

In 2012, the government established a linguistics agency to oversee the translation and use of English acronyms and China-bound neologisms such as WTO, Aids and GDP; translations that are often more bulky and cumbersome than the original.

This plan backfired when CCTV (ironically, one acronym that has so far not been banned) forbade the use of NBA in its broadcasts, replacing it instead with the equivalent of the "US professional basketball association," as noted by Shanghaiist. Viewers went on to voice their disdain at the arbitrary nature of such modifications.

However, with the inevitable increase in cross-cultural communication and exposure to Mandarin  face-to-face, online and via Hollywood  there are bound to be words poised to slip into the English lexicon. Place your bets below as to which will land first (if it’s not too mafan).


Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog