Chinglish refers to spoken or written English language that is influenced by the Chinese language. The term "Chinglish" is commonly applied to ungrammatical or nonsensical English in Chinese contexts, and may have pejorative or deprecating connotations, reflecting the attitudes of those who apply the label. Other terms used to describe the phenomenon include "Chinese English", "China English", and "Sinicized English". The degree to which a Chinese variety of English exists or can be considered legitimate is disputed.
The English word Chinglish is a portmanteau of Chinese and English. The Chinese equivalent is Zhongshi Yingyu (simplified Chinese: 中式英语; traditional Chinese: 中式英語; pinyin: Zhōngshì Yīngyǔ; literally "Chinese style English").
Chinglish can be compared with other putative international hodgepodge varieties of English, such as Britalian (from Italian), Czenglish (from Czech), Denglisch (German), Dunglish (Dutch), Franglais (French), Spanglish (Spanish), Swenglish (Swedish), Heblish (Hebrew), Engrish (Japanese), Hinglish (Hindi), Konglish (Korean), Singlish (in Singapore), Orglish (Orcish) and Tinglish (Thai).
Chinglish, n. and a. colloq. (freq. depreciative). Brit. /ˈtʃɪŋglɪʃ/, U.S. /ˈtʃɪŋ(g)lɪʃ/. Forms: 19– Chinglish, 19– Chenglish [rare]. [Blend of Chinese n. and English n. Compare earlier Japlish n., Spanglish n. Compare also Hinglish n.2, Singlish n.2] A. n. A mixture of Chinese and English; esp. a variety of English used by speakers of Chinese or in a bilingual Chinese and English context, typically incorporating some Chinese vocabulary or constructions, or English terms specific to a Chinese context. Also: the vocabulary of, or an individual word from, such a variety. Cf. Singlish n.2 B adj. Of or relating to Chinglish; expressed in Chinglish.
Chinglish contrasts with some related terms. Chinese Pidgin English was a lingua franca that originated in the seventeenth century. Chinese-Ordered English and English-Ordered Chinese are pedagogical techniques for teaching Chinese as a second language. Zhonglish, a term for Chinese influenced by English, is a portmanteau from Zhongwen 中文 "Chinese language" and English. "
Some peculiar Chinese English cannot be labeled Chinglish because it is grammatically correct, and Mair calls this emerging dialect "Xinhua English or New China News English", based on the Xinhua News Agency. Take for instance, this headline: "China lodges solemn representation over Japan's permission for Rebiya Kadeer's visit". This unusual English phrase literally translates the original Chinese tichu yanzheng jiaoshe (提出嚴正交涉 "lodge solemn representation"), combining tichu "put forward; raise; pose bring up", yanzheng "serious; stern; unyielding; solemn", and jiaoshe "mutual relations; negotiation; representation". "Pure Chinese" is an odd English locution in a Web advertisement: "孔子學院/ CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE/ Teach you pure Chinese." This Kongzi Xueyuan (孔子學院) is Chinese for the Confucius Institute, but Mair notes that "pure Chinese" curiously implies "impure Chinese".
One author divides Chinglish into "instrumental" and "ornamental" categories. "Instrumental Chinglish is actually intended to convey information to English speakers. Ornamental Chinglish is born of the fact that English is the lingua franca of coolness. Meaning aside, any combination of roman letters elevates a commodity – khaki pants, toilet paper, potato chips – to a higher plane of chic by suggesting that the product is geared toward an international audience."
English first arrived in China in 1637, when British traders reached Macao and Guangzhou (or Canton). In the 17th century, Chinese Pidgin English originated as a lingua franca for trade between British people and mostly Cantonese-speaking Chinese people. This proto-Chinglish term "pidgin" originated as a Chinese mispronunciation of the English word "business". Following the First and Second Opium War between 1839–1842, Pidgin English spread north to Shanghai and other treaty ports. Pidgin usage began to decline in the late 19th century when Chinese and missionary schools began teaching Standard English. In 1982, the People's Republic of China made English the main foreign language in education. Current estimates for the number English learners in China range from 300 to 500 million.
Chinglish may have influenced some English expressions that are "calques" or "loan translations" from Chinese Pidgin English, for instance, "lose face" derives from diulian 丟臉 "lose face; be humiliated." Some sources claim "long time no see" is a Chinglish calque from hǎojiǔbújiàn 好久不見 "long time no see". More reliable references note this jocular American English phrase "used as a greeting after prolonged separation" was first recorded in 1900 for a Native American's speech, and thus more likely derives from American Indian Pidgin English.
Soon after the International Olympic Committee selected Beijing in 2001, the Beijing Tourism Bureau established a tipster hotline for Chinglish errors on signs, such as emergency exits at the Beijing airport reading "No entry on peacetime". In 2007, the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program (BSFLP) reported they had, "worked out 4,624 pieces of standard English translations to substitute the Chinglish ones on signs around the city", for instance, "Be careful, road slippery" instead of "To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty." BSFLP chairperson Chen Lin said, "We want everything to be correct. Grammar, words, culture, everything. Beijing will have thousands of visitors coming. We don't want anyone laughing at us." Reporting from Beijing, Ben Macintyre lamented the loss of signs like "Show Mercy to the Slender Grass" because, "many of the best examples of Chinglish are delightful, reflecting the inventiveness that results when two such different languages collide". The Global Language Monitor doubted that Beijing's attempt to eradicate Chinglish could succeed; noting that "we share the charm and joy of the Olympic Games" is found on the official website of the Beijing Olympics. "Hundreds of scholars have proofed the site and decided that the word charm is most appropriate in describing the Games."
In Shanghai, for Expo 2010, a similar effort was made to replace Chinglish signage. A New York Times article by Andrew Jacobs reported on accomplishments by the Shanghai Commission for the Management of Language Use. "Fortified by an army of 600 volunteers and a politburo of adroit English speakers, the commission has fixed more than 10,000 public signs (farewell "Teliot" and "urine district"), rewritten English-language historical placards and helped hundreds of restaurants recast offerings."  James Fallows attributed many Shanghai Chinglish errors to "rote reliance on dictionaries or translation software", citing a bilingual sign reading "餐廳 Translate server error" (canting 餐廳 means "dining room; restaurant"). While conceding that "there's something undeniably Colonel Blimp-ish in making fun of the locals for their flawed command of your own mother tongue"; Fallows observed a Shanghai museum with "Three Georges Dam" banners advertising a Three Gorges Dam exhibit, and wrote, "it truly is bizarre that so many organizations in China are willing to chisel English translations into stone, paint them on signs, print them on business cards, and expose them permanently to the world without making any effort to check whether they are right." On a Chinese airplane, Fallows was given a wet wipe labeled "Wet turban needless wash", translating mianxi shijin (免洗濕巾 lit. "wash-free moist towel"). Shanghai's Luwan District published a controversial "Bilingual Instruction of Luwan District for Expo" phrasebook with English terms and Chinese characters approximating pronunciation: "Good morning! (古的貓寧)" [pronounced gu de mao ning] and "I'm sorry (俺麼搔瑞)" [an men sao rui].
Chinglish is pervasive in present-day China "on public notices in parks and at tourist sites, on shop names and in their slogans, in product advertisements and on packages, in hotel names and literature, in restaurant names and on menus, at airports, railway stations and in taxis, on street and highway signs – even in official tourist literature."
The future of Chinglish is uncertain. The Global Language Monitor predicts it will thrive, and estimates that roughly 20 percent of new English words derive from Chinglish, for instance, shanzhai (山寨; literally "mountain stronghold; mountain village") meaning "counterfeit consumer goods; things done in parody" — Huang Youyi, president of the China Internet Information Center, predicts that linguistic purism could be damaged by popular Chinese words of English origin (such as OK and LOL). "If we do not pay attention and we do not take measures to stop Chinese mingling with English, Chinese will no longer be a pure language in a couple of years."
Specifying Chinglish to mean "Chinese words literally translated into English", an experiment in linguistic clarity found that mathematical terms are more readily understandable in Chinglish than English. English words for mathematics typically have Greek and Latin roots, while corresponding Chinese words are usually translations of neologisms from Western languages; thus quadrilateral (from Latin quadri- "four" and latus "sided") is generally less informative than Chinese sibianxing 四邊形 (literally, "four-side-shape"). For example, compare the semantic clarity of English axiom, Chinese gongli 公理, and Chinglish (literal translation) "universal-principle"; median, zhongshu 中数, and "centre-number"; or trapezoid, tixing 梯形, and "ladder-figure". The study involved three groups of mathematics teachers who rated the clarity of 71 common mathematical terms. Group 1 with native speakers of Chinese judged 61% of the Chinese terms as clear; Group 2 with native speakers of English judged 45% of the English terms as clear. Group 3 with English-speaking teachers (both native and nonnative speakers) judged the comparative clarity of English and Chinglish word pairs: more clear for 42.3% of the Chinglish and 5.6% of the English, equally clear for 25.4% of the Chinglish-English pairs, and neither clear for 19.7%.
On October 11, 2011, a Broadway play written by David Henry Hwang named Chinglish, which deals heavily with the themes of Chinese and American (mis)communication, began performances at the Longacre Theatre.
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- Cultural meanings. The English idiom "work like a horse" means "work hard", but in China horses are rarely used as draft animals and the equivalent Chinese expression uses shuiniu 水牛 "water buffalo".
- Problems of direct translation. Some Chinglish menus translate doufu 豆腐 as "bean curd", which "sounds very unappetizing" to English speakers, instead of "tofu".
- Wordiness. Unnecessary words and convoluted sentences are hallmarks of Chinglish translation. For example, the Civil Aviation Administration of China announced, "CAAC has decided to start the business of advance booking and ticketing", which could simply say "CAAC now accepts advance booking and ticketing."
- Wrong word order. A host in Shenyang toasted a group of foreign investors with "Up your bottoms!" instead of "Bottoms up!"
Chinglish reflects the influence of Chinese syntax and grammar. For instance, Chinese verbs are not necessarily conjugated and there is no equivalent article for English "the", both of which can create awkward translations.
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Chinglish has various causes, most commonly erroneous Chinese dictionaries and translation software (mentioned above by Fallows).
Liu et al. differentiate root and ancillary causes of Chinglish. The root causes are outdated Chinese-English dictionaries and incorrect English as a foreign language textbooks. Ancillary causes include misspelling, mediocre English-language teaching, sloppy translation, and reliance on outdated translation technology. They warn that, "today's English-language publishers and teachers in China are passing on obsolete translations and incorrect rules of language to students. In turn, Chinglish gets duplicated across society, particularly now during today's period of rapid opening to the outside world and the widespread use of English. The resultant flood of Chinglish will perpetuate unless it is corrected now."
Common causes include:
- Lack of inclusion of native speakers of English in the translation or editing process
- Dictionary translation: translating Chinese to English word for word
- Use of machine translation with no post-editing
- Competently translated text which has been subsequently edited by non-native speakers
Collections of Chinglish are found on numerous websites (see below) and books. Owing to the ubiquity of Chinglish mistakes throughout the Sinophone world, the following examples will exclude common misspellings (e.g., "energetically Englsih-friendly environment") and typographical errors (a bilingual bus sign reading "往 不知道 To unknow"; wang 往 means "to; toward" and buzhidao 不知道 "don't know") that can occur anywhere in the English-speaking world.
- Slip carefully. A bilingual sign in Sichuan mistranslates Xiaoxin huadao (小心滑倒 "Be careful not to slip and fall").
- To take notice of safe: The slippery are very crafty. A comparable sign in a Beijing garage reads Zhuyi anquan podao luhua (注意安全 坡道路滑 "Pay attention to safety The ramp is slippery").
- Workshop for concrete agitation appears on a sign in a Sichuan factory. Jiaoban fang (攪拌房), which combines jiaoban meaning "stir; mix; agitate" and fang "house; room", translates as "mixing room".
- Spread to fuck the fruit is a Chinese supermarket sign mistranslation of sàn gānguǒ (simplified Chinese: 散干果; traditional Chinese: 散乾果; literally "loose dried fruits"). Victor Mair noted the fuck translation of gān (干) was "fairly ubiquitous in China", and discovered this complicated Chinglish error resulted from machine translation software misinterpreting gānguǒ (simplified Chinese: 干果; traditional Chinese: 乾果; literally "dried fruits/nuts") as gàn guǒ (simplified Chinese: 干果; traditional Chinese: 幹果; literally "do/fuck fruits"). In written Chinese, sometimes a single simplified Chinese character is used for multiple traditional Chinese characters: gān (simplified Chinese: 干; traditional Chinese: 干; literally "trunk; stem") is the simplified form of two words gān (Chinese: 乾; literally "dry; dried up; in vain") and gàn (Chinese: 幹; literally "trunk; main body; do; work; (vulgar) fuck"). Mair's research revealed that popular Chinese-English Jinshan Ciba dictionary (2002 edition) and Jinshan Kuaiyi translation software systematically rendered every occurrence of 干 as "fuck" (later editions corrected this error). Two comparable Chinglish mistranslations of gān "dry" as gàn "do; fuck" are: The shrimp fucks the cabbage for Xiāgān chǎo báicài (simplified Chinese: 虾干炒白菜; traditional Chinese: 蝦乾炒白菜; literally "stir-fried dried shrimp with Chinese cabbage"), and fuck the empress mistakes gàn hòu (simplified Chinese: 干后; traditional Chinese: 幹后; literally "do the empress") for gānhòu (simplified Chinese: 干后; traditional Chinese: 乾後; literally "after drying"), with hòu (simplified Chinese: 后; traditional Chinese: 后; literally "queen; empress") as the Simplified form of hòu (Chinese: 後; literally "after").
- Please steek gently appears on a Taipei government building door. This form of Chinglish uses obscure English terms, namely, Scottish English steek "enclose; close; shut" instead of the common word.
- Bumf Box for shouzhi xiang (手紙箱 "toilet paper box/case"), employs the British English word bumf, originally a shortened form of bumfodder meaning "toilet paper", now used to mean "useless documents".
- Braised enterovirus in Clay Pot appears on a Chinese menu for ganguo feichang (干鍋肥腸; literally "dry pot fatty intestine"), which is a stuffed sausage popular in Sichuanese-Hunanese cuisine. This example occurred following the Enterovirus 71 epidemic in China, and mistranslates feichang (肥腸 "pig's large intestines [used as food]") as chang[dao] bingdu (腸[道]病毒 "intestinal virus").
- Fried enema on a menu mistranslates zha guanchang (炸灌腸 "fried sausage [with flour stuffed into hog casings])". The Jinshan Ciba dictionary confused the cooking and medical meanings of guanchang "(make) a sausage; (give) an enema".
- A weak 'pyridaben carbazole' sound is found on translated instructions for a photographic light, "Install the battery into the battery jar, when heard a weak 'pyridaben carbazole' sound the installation is completed." The original Chinese has an onomatopoetic term dada kazuo (噠噠咔唑 "click; tick") rendered into damanling (噠蟎靈 "pyridaben") and kazuo (咔唑 "carbazole").
- 4 Uygur theater is printed on the bilingual instructions for a Chinese 4-D film about dinosaurs. The Chinese term siwei (四維 "4 dimensions") uses wei "tie up; maintain, uphold; estimate" that commonly transcribes foreign names such as Weiwu'er (維吾爾 "Uyghur; Uighur").
- Exterminate Capitalism Lobster Package was the Chinglish rendering of Taotie longxia can (饕餮龍蝦餐 "gourmand lobster meal") on a menu mentioned by the New York Times. Victor Mair analyzed the linguistic impossibility of rendering Taotie (Wikt:饕餮) "a mythical beast; glutton; greedy person" as "exterminate capitalism" and concluded somebody "mischievously provided an absurd translation, perhaps with the intention of poking fun at the Chinese Communist system which has given rise to such luxurious and fancy dining practices as reflected in pretentious menus of this sort."
- Do not want is a mistranslation of "Nooooo-!" exclaimed by Darth Vader in a bootleg version of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, a phrase which has since become an internet meme. A bootleg copy of the film entitled "Star War - The third gathers: Backstroke of the West" was bought in China, and featured erroneous English subtitles that were machine translated back from a Chinese translation of the original English, i.e. a re-translation, which was posted online due to its humorous use of poor English. Having gone viral, the phrase has spread as a meme used on messageboards online. The mistranslation is an example of translation decay following an English translation to Chinese, which is then re-translated back into English; the exclamation "no" would be correctly translated as 不要 buyao in Chinese, however since 要 yao can also mean "want", and 不 bu is used as a negation particle, 不要 can also be translated as "don't want" or "do not want". As an example, the phrase 我不要去 correctly translates to "I (don't/do not) want to go", however the discussion 「你要不要吃飯？」／「不要。」 translates to "Do you want to eat?"/"No." as well.
- Go straight on public is a mistranslation of "Public washroom outside on the second floor."
See also 
- Hong Kong English
- Non-native pronunciations of English
- Mute English
- English as she is spoke
- Westernised Chinese language
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- Zhonglish, Urban Dictionary.
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- Beijing getting rid of badly translate signs [sic], China Daily 2007-02-27. In addition, this article misspells "Chinglis".
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- Radtke, Oliver Lutz (2009). More Chinglish: Speaking in Tongues. Gibb禁s-Smith.
- Mark Swofford, "Taiwan's energetically Englsih-friendly environment ", Pinyin news, December 12, 2007.
- Victor Mair, "A Bus to Don't Know", Language Log, September 6, 2010.
- Scenes from Habitat for Humanity in Sichuan
- David Feng (July 2006). "To Take Notice of Safe". Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- Victor Mair, "GAN: WHODUNNIT, AND HOW, AND WHY?", Language Log, May 31, 2006.
- Victor Mair. "The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation". Language Log, December 9, 2007. Accessed April 30, 2008.
- Victor Mair, THE SHRIMP DID WHAT TO THE CABBAGE?, Language Log, September 11, 2006.
- Victor Mair, "Mind your manners with the empress", Language Log, July 14, 2010.
- Victor Mair, Bumf box, Language Log, May 2, 2009.
- Mark Lieberman, "Braised enterovirus, anyone?", Language Log, July 16, 2008.
- Victor Mair, "Fried enema", Language Log, April 5, 2010.
- Victor Mair, "Wait Till You Hear a Weak Pyridaben Carbazole Sound", Language Log, June 30, 2010.
- Victor Mair, "4 Uygur Theater", Language Log, June 12, 2009.
- Allison Busacca and Marcia Allert, Strange Signs from Abroad, New York Times, May 11, 2010
- Victor Mair, "Weird Signs", Language Log, May 14, 2010.
- http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/do-want-do-not-want. Retrieved 29 April 2013. Missing or empty
- "episode iii, the backstroke of the west". Winterson. Retrieved 2008-05-17.
- "episode iii, the backstroke of the west redux". Winterson. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
- "Top ten Star Wars myths and legends: Do not want". VirginMedia.com. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
|Look up Chinglish in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- AsiaObscura.com's collection of Chinglish
- The Chinese-English, Chinglish Archives ChineseEnglish.com
- Chinglish.com Chinese-English dictionary
- The Chinglish Collection : Pocopico.com
- The Chinglish Files
- Engrish.com Chinglish Collection
- Chinglish Collection and more
- LanguageMonitor.com Top Chinglish of the Year
- A Sampling of Chinglish NY Times 2010/05/03
- Strange Signs From Abroad NY Times 2010/05/11
- Chinglish: an illustrated lecture, William Griffin