Why some English words are controversial in China

Discussion in 'China' started by Ray, May 3, 2014.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Why some English words are controversial in China

    Yuwen Wu

    [​IMG]
    There are translations for Nokia and Motorola, but not iPad or iPhone in China

    Nowadays, if you eavesdrop on Chinese people's phone conversations, it is commonplace to hear English phrases popping up here and there, like "Okay", "Cool" and "Bye bye".

    In today's Chinese publications, English abbreviations and acronyms also pop up frequently without any Chinese translations: GDP, WTO, Wifi, CEO, MBA, VIP and the air pollutant term PM2.5 are among the most popular.

    This phenomenon, termed "zero translation", has sparked a fierce debate, with the Chinese Communist Party's official newspaper People's Daily the latest to join the fray.

    "Why is zero translation so prevalent?" screams the headline in a recent commentary piece, citing as a bad example the text below, which considers the merits of an open source platform.

    "采用了基于OpenEdX开源平台,开发了HTML5视频播放器,不再依赖国外课程播放首选的YouTube,解决了国内用户无法访问国外edX平台问题。"

    "Why do we have translations for Nokia and Motorola, but not for iPhone or iPad?" ask the authors.

    What irritates them is the fact that these foreign terms are found not only in newspapers and online, but in serious science journals as well.

    They claim that such practices damage the integrity and harmony of the Chinese language, dilute the richness of the Chinese culture and hamper comprehension. "How many people can understand these words?" they ask.

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    The translation of Coca-Cola - "tasty and jolly" - conveys a sense of euphoria

    To put this in context - the Chinese language has over the years absorbed many foreign terms, especially English words. Early adoptions include 雷达 (leida) for "radar", 坦克 (tanke) for "tank", and 巧克力 (qiaokeli) for "chocolate".

    Coca-Cola, whose Chinese rendition 可口可乐 (kekou kele) literally means "tasty and jolly", conveys a sense of euphoria that it is often held up as the best brand translation.

    Unlike the "bad example text", these words and many others have been given Chinese characters so they blend into the Chinese language.

    The problem now, the commentators claim, is that English words are used directly along with Chinese, without any translations. And there are many reasons why.

    More and more Chinese people speak English and they like to switch between Chinese and English in conversation or when they write. The internet has helped spread English, especially in the fields of innovation and technology, while popular US and British films and TV dramas have also played a part.

    The three authors of the People's Daily piece also cite worship of Western culture and technology, the scarcity of good translators and laziness as possible causes.

    [​IMG]
    The use of the word NBA, the US professional basketball league with many fans in China, was banned

    his is not the first time that attempts to purify the Chinese language have sparked national debate.

    US basketball is very popular in China and "NBA" was used on TV for many years before the authorities decided to ban it in 2010, in favour of the Chinese rendition 美职篮 (mei zhi lan), which literally means American professional basketball instead.

    This proved very controversial. In 2012, the Modern Chinese Dictionary, long considered the authority in language use, included NBA and more than 200 other foreign words in its new edition, and NBA made its way back on TV.

    Around 100 scholars then signed an open letter to the national publication authorities, accusing the dictionary editors of violating Chinese laws and regulations. They argued that including such English terms and abbreviations in the Chinese dictionary would do long-term damage to the language.

    Not everybody agreed. The official Xinhua news agency carried a piece by Zhang Kuixing wondering how the use of some English vocabulary in a dictionary could be against the law if the language was legal in China.

    The author argued that a dictionary should reflect usage; and since terms such as NBA were already in common use, inclusion in the dictionary simply reflected reality.

    Others said the ultimate aim of language was communication, and a language should not shut out foreign words. A dictionary, they argued, should provide references of language use and help readers.

    Fast forward to 2014 - and linguistic use has become heavily politicised again, with People's Daily blaming "a lack of pride and confidence in one's own culture and language, which leads to blindly worshipping anything Western".

    The idea would be for all foreign words to have proper Chinese translations: experts would be able to submit their translations for public consultation and trial use before they became official. People would even vote for their favourite translations.

    There has been a sharp reaction on Chinese social media. Some have posted long-winded Chinese passages to show how inconvenient it would be to dispense with the English usage.

    Others have questioned the point in learning foreign languages if they are not put to good use.

    There has even been a suggestion that the title of Chinese state television, CCTV, should be banned. It is, after all, an English abbreviation.

    This looks like the start of a long battle.

    BBC News - Why some English words are controversial in China

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    It is true that with the growing globalisation and interaction in English, the vernacular will slowly be bastardised.

    In India because of the increasing influence of English, a legacy of the British colonialism, we are already finding it difficult to remembering or using the vernacular and instead are peppering our interaction with English equivalent.

    Even the Hindi films and soaps are using this bastardised form and it is catching on, or should I say, may have caught up long ago.

    It is not only English that has crept in, in fact, Hindi has also crept into other Indian vernaculars.

    Having used Hindi and Urdu in my professional life, I find that when talking to Bengalis, I revert to some words in Hindi/ Urdu since that come easier to me to recall.
     
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  3. abhi_the _gr8_maratha

    abhi_the _gr8_maratha Senior Member Senior Member

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    Simply we can't expect study of linguistic and criticism in china,stalin banned critics cause it can't give money,
    saussure,the father of modern linguistic said that language is nothing but a CONCEPT OF COMMUNICATION AND it is a device to share knowledge, there is no difference between two language cause house=ghar, each word is a symbol and every symbol has a meaning .symbol can be different for a meaning eg. If we have to refer to a wall we will call it wall in english and diwar in hindi and bhint in marathi meaning will be same but symbols(words) is different
    and symbol gets meaning cause of convention ,we call it wall because our ancestor used to call it so
    @Ray sir
     
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  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    True.

    However, when it is 'bastardised' with the multiple of languages, then all should understand the 'bastardised' version or it gets confusing.

    For instance, in Mandarin, ''Ni Hai" means Hello. But if you have a mix of Mandarin and English, it could also mean 'Knee High'. In other words, you have to exert more to understand the context to understand the meaning, So, something simple, gets complicated.

    I am using this example since I said ''Ni Hai" to a Chinese lady, who I knew, at the Mall to be used as a Greeting. She was wearing a three quarter pant and she said. ''No. It is below the knee". It is then it hit me that the mixing of languages could cause confusion.

    An Indian example that I found was funny.

    In Telegu, 'Garu' means 'Mahashay' in Bengali.

    However, 'Garu' in Bengali, means a lota that is used to wash your bottom after ablution.

    It therefore, is offensive in Bengali when a Bengali is addressed as let us say 'Sen (a name) garu'.

    Just a thought.
     
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  5. abhi_the _gr8_maratha

    abhi_the _gr8_maratha Senior Member Senior Member

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    @Ray sir it is not a problem of language but of phonetic phone means sound and phonetic means science of how to pronounce word, in english there is concept of intonation means there is a rhythm while hindi and most of indian language have simple pronunciation but in english you have to put accent on right phone and the pronunciation of inspire is like INSPAYR and of inspiration is like INSPIRASHAN but we pronounce it like INSPYRASHAN there will be some difference while pronouncing two similar word like know and no eg no pronounce like no and know like 'no (' means stress and its phonetical symbol you can also find it wild reading pronunciation in oxford dictionary)
    there is very small difference and mistake will be done while speaking foreign language cause we have impact of mother tongue on our phonetical organs like tongue,teeth,muscles of chest,throat etc

    I know all this cause I an student of literature, phonetics ,criticism, linguistic etc
     
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  6. abhi_the _gr8_maratha

    abhi_the _gr8_maratha Senior Member Senior Member

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    and it is convention which gives meaning to a symbol @Ray sir so there can be two different meaning of same pronunciation for eg. In movies if you have to show a incident of past one will show it in black and white film and other will show it like a old man telling the incident meaning is same but the method or symbol is different cause of different convention/tradition
     
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  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Change of tone - Mandarin Chinese I


     

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