Chinglish: Wikis


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This article contains Chinese text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.
The Chinglish translation on the sign ("To sell inside the commodity space all acceping money sipe supplys examineing the price service") is meant to signify, "All cashiers in the marketplace offer price-checking services."

Chinglish (simplified Chinese: 中式英语traditional Chinese: 中式英語pinyin: Zhōngshì Yīngyǔ) is a portmanteau of the words Chinese and English and refers to spoken or written English which is influenced by Chinese[1]. There are an estimated 300 to 500 million users and/or learners of English in the People's Republic of China[2]. The term "Chinglish" is mostly used in popular contexts and may have pejorative or derogatory connotations[3]. Other terms for the variety of English used in China include "Chinese English," "China English," and "Sinicized English." [4].


History of English in China

English first arrived in China in the 1630s, when British traders arrived in South China. Chinese Pidgin English was spoken first in the areas of Macau and Canton, later spreading north to Shanghai by the 1830s[5]. Chinese Pidgin English began to decline in the late 19th century as standard English began to be taught in the country's education system; English was made the country's main foreign language in 1982[6].

In Beijing, in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the city authorities attempted to eliminate bad English on public signs and replaced it with better and correct English.[7] Signs that previously read: "To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty" were changed to read "Caution - slippery path". [8]



In Cantonese pronunciation, some consonants are nowadays changed into other, for example N is often pronounced as L. Voiced sounds (/v/ and the /ʒ/ sound - eg. 'pleasure') cause difficulty. In speech, there is also a tendency to add the sound "see" or "chi" at the end of certain singular letters, such as the letters "S" and "H" ('es-see' and 'ay-chi' respectively).

Similarly, there are no syllable codas (consonants at the end of syllables) in Mandarin with the exception of the "n" and "ŋ" sounds. When encountering such codas, a Mandarin speaker will either modify the consonant to form a separate syllable, or drop it altogether. Thus, for example, CCTV presenters pronounce the letters "L", "M", and "N" as [aɪ lə] ("ai-le"), [aɪ mu] ("ai-mu") and [ən] ("n") respectively, while in Taiwan, the letter "L" is frequently pronounced [ɛ lɔ].

As all varieties of Chinese are tonal languages, Chinese speakers sometimes apply tonal attributes to English, which is normally a stress-based language. Stressed syllables are generally given higher and falling tones over unstressed syllables. This imparts a "staccato" quality to the accent, a feature shared by speakers of other tonal (or pitch-stressed) languages.


The overuse of —ing, and the confusion of one word for another (a warning sign in Guilin)

Examples include "to put in Jingzhang Expressway" instead of "to Jingzhang Expressway"), and the use of "emergent" to mean "emergency" or "urgent". As another example, when something is explained, the English learner may respond with "Oh, I know," while the appropriate response would be "Oh, I see." This is because "知道 zhīdao" is usually translated as know regardless of context. "When did you first recognize him?" is also sometimes used for "When did you first meet him?" because "认识[認識] rènshi" is usually translated as recognize as in "I recognize him from last week's party."

The English words see, watch, read and look at are all represented by the Chinese word “看 kàn", and may be used interchangeably. The situation of speak, say and talk is similar. Phrases like "Can you say Chinese?", "I am watching a book", and "Tomorrow I will look a movie" may be common.

Another example is "turn on/off" versus "open/close". In Chinese, "turn on" (in the sense of operating a switch or a machine) and "open" are rendered by the same character, and so are "turn off" and "close". The two terms may be used interchangeably.

"Welcome you" is one of the more noticeable cases of Chinglish, especially on mainland China. This is used as a direct translation in Chinese, "歡迎". It can mean "welcome to," "we invite you to" or "you are welcome to", and is used more as an incentive to the activity introduced or as a form of "thank you". Its use is almost always cordial, inviting, or otherwise positive. Example:

  • Welcome you to Beijing = Welcome to Beijing
  • Welcome to ride Line 52 Bus = Thank you for riding Bus Line 52, or You are welcome to ride Bus Line 52.

Grammar and Syntax

Chinglish reflects the influence of Chinese syntax and grammar[9]; in Chinese, verbs are not conjugated (either for tense or pronoun), and there is no equivalent word for "the." Therefore "the" is often either overused or not used at all.

Comma splices can occur frequently. This is because in Chinese writing, the comma (逗號 ",") is sufficient to terminate a clause, with no need to follow with a conjunction. The equivalent of full stop (句號 "。") is usually reserved for the end of an idea, which theoretically may continue for an entire paragraph.[citation needed]

Discourse Pragmatics

Certain unique discourse features exist in written China English, such as "inductive" structure and a preference for a "problem-solution" pattern.[10].

Examples of Chinglish on signs

Sign for tourists in Sichuan China
Sign for tourists in Sichuan China
A sign on a Taipei government building door instructs the reader "to steek" gently, instead of using the more common word "to close door".

The following are several examples of Chinglish found on signs:[8]

  • To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty. (注意安全 坡道路滑) (Beijing) = Be careful, slippery slopes.[11]
  • Slip carefully (小心滑倒) = Be careful not to slip and fall. Scenes from Habitat for Humanity in Sichuan
  • Be Cautious to slip (防滑地中 小心滑倒) = Note slippery ground so be cautious not to slip and fall. Also from Habitat for Humanity in Sichuan.
  • Please Steek Gently = Please close door gently (关门 / 關門 is an entry in a Chinese-English dictionary yielding steek, archaic. To steek is actually Scottish dialect meaning to close, to shut.)
Sign on factory in Sichuan China
  • Workshop for concrete agitation (攪拌房) = Mix Stir House. Since concrete is not in the original, this is human translation.
  • Fuck the Certain Price of Goods (干货计价处 / 乾貨計價處) = A translation of "Dry Goods Pricing Department" on a sign at supermarket in China. The merger of the traditional character for "dry" (乾) and the character meaning "to do" (幹), also commonly used to denote the vulgarity "fuck," into one single simplified character (干) likely led to this confusion.[12] The characters comprising the word for "pricing" or "valuation" (计价 / 計價) can be translated separately as "certain" (计 / 計) and "price" (价 / 價).
  • Financial Affairs is Everywhere Long (财务处处长 | 財務處處長) = Chief Financial Officer. Though this word (財務處處長) should be separated as "Financial Office" (財務處) + "Officer of" (處長), it could also literally be separated as "Financial Affairs" (財務) + "Everywhere" (處處) + "Long" (長), thus the confusion. This is most likely a product of machine translation, for no Chinese person would understand the words in such manner.

See also


  1. ^ Jing, Xiao and Zuo, Niannian. (2006). "Chinglish in the oral work of non-English majors". CELEA Journal Vol. 29, No. 4
  2. ^ McArthur, Tom. (2002). Oxford Guide to World English. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-866248-3 hardback, ISBN 0-19-860771-7 paperback.
  3. ^ Nury Vittachi (2000). From Yinglish to sado-mastication. World Englishes 19 (3) , 405–414 doi:10.1111/1467-971X.00189
  4. ^ He, Deyuan & Li, David C.S. (2009). Language attitudes and linguistic features in the 'China English' debate. World Englishes Vol. 28, No. 1
  5. ^ Yamuna Kachru and Cecil L. Nelson, World Englishes in Asian Contexts. Hong Kong University Press, 2006
  6. ^ am, A. (2002). English in education in China: policy changes and learners’. experiences. World Englishes, 21(2), 245-256
  7. ^ BBC News (15/10/06) - Beijing stamps out poor English
  8. ^ a b Radtke, Oliver Lutz (2007). Chinglish Found in Translation. China: Gibbs-Smith. pp. 110. ISBN 10 1-4236-0335-4. 
  9. ^ Li, Wenzhong. (1993). "China English and Chinglish". Foreign Language Teaching and Research Journal, Vol.4.
  10. ^ He, Deyuan & Li, David C.S. (2009). Language attitudes and linguistic features in the 'China English' debate. World Englishes Vol. 28, No. 1
  11. ^ David Feng (July 2006). "To Take Notice of Safe". Retrieved 2007-12-05. 
  12. ^ Mair, Victor. "The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation". Language Log, December 9, 2007. Accessed April 30, 2008.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Wikipedia has an article on:





Blend of Chinese and English


Chinglish (comparative more Chinglish, superlative most Chinglish)


more Chinglish

most Chinglish

  1. Of or resembling English that is influenced by the Chinese language.


Proper noun




  1. Spoken or written English which is influenced by the Chinese language


See also

Simple English

Chinglish is the way that English learner whose first language is Chinese use English words in a Chinese language way.

It often happens when those people learning a new language and can not prevent from thinking in an old way.

For example, when people asks another to go out with him/her. In English : Will you go out with me? In Chinese language way: Will you go out and play with me?

So the chinglish can make the English speaker feel confused.

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