You mention Chinglish

And then three phrases come along at once.

With the Olympics nigh, Chinglish has been featuring on Language Log lately. The latest post on the subject – Should we laugh at Chinglish? – is about a post on Chinglish by James Fallowes. On the original question, it’s often hard not to laugh at Chinglish, although there’s a continuum from the completely bizarre to the use of utterly inappropriate vocabulary to mundane errors.

The question is also being asked why no one is getting native speakers of English to proof this stuff; but we’ve been asking that for years. Stephen Jones’ comment on the Language Log entry is

I think the reason is that the foreigner is just that – a foreigner.

There’s a tendency in Chinese schools and universities for the foreigner to be seen as a conversation teacher, a trained monkey designed to amuse. The serious teaching is done by Chinese English teachers.

I don’t think that’s quite the reason why, but Jones is right about one thing: we’re the novelty act. Yet in six years of being the novelty act, I’ve never sought to simply entertain and I’ve never believed that stealth learning in any form is effective.

[18.07.14. Actually, I now think the comment is a little more accurate than I originally thought. The Chinese aren’t keen on foreigners teaching English for the College Entrance Exam because we can’t teach the weird thing that they think is English, an odd creature which is a mix of 19th century / American English (which are not exactly dissimilar things) with some British English thrown in for good measure.]

So what is the reason? Why don’t the Chinese collar native speakers and ask them (nicely) to check their translations? My early theory was that the translators would lose face if their translations were always being corrected. That may be part of the reason. It may also be because if someone is doing the translation in-house, then you don’t need to pay some foreign consultant. Bigger bribes for everyone.

Anyway, I see the sun is shining today, and it’s about time I got out of here and went on an adventure. Perhaps I’ll espy more Chinglish on the way (which is how I can work this comment into this entry).

[18.07.14. Six years later and nothing has changed. We’re not just the novelty act, but we have to compete with TOEFL and SAT essay teaching, which students clearly regard as far more important than actually learning actual English.

Similarly, at the bottom of the escalator from the checkouts in Carrefour, there was a Kawaii booth lining the wall until recently. The shop sells cheap trinkets aimed at the female market. For some reason it’s now gone, leaving a bare wall punctuated by a door. On the door is a sign which is trying to say “Keep clear”, but says instead, “No jamming”. I know one of my current colleagues, who’s a keen guitarist, will be dis­ap­pointed by this injunction.]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s