Mute English is a phenomenon, especially common in the People's Republic of China, where people can read and understand English as a second language but cannot speak it well. The phrase is a calque of the Chinese phrase "哑巴英语" (yǎbā yīngyǔ in pinyin). The phenomenon is sometimes referred to as Dumb English.
Mute English occurs primarily due to the lack of native English speakers to emulate or practice with, particularly in a country as large as China. Efforts to mitigate Mute English in China have resulted in numerous commercial products including TEFL schools and teach-yourself courses, international exchanges, and the eagerness with which Chinese students strive to practice their English with foreign visitors.
Though any language can have its form of mute speakers (e.g. Mute Polish), the phenomenon of 'Mute English' in China is a massive, acknowledged problem, one which the school systems and students are attempting to address.
A related concept is the less-common Deaf English.
- Minglang Zhou and Hongkai Sun, Language Policy in the People’s Republic of China, http://www.springerlink.com/content/r8342831108m3748/
- Kinam Jin, and Hyun Jong Song, Short-term Migration and the Acquisition of a World Language Gillian Stevens
- People.com.cn, Headline: Do not Learn "Mute English" (Silent English), https://web.archive.org/web/20050215151355/http://www.people.com.cn:80/english/9807/10/head.htm*Guo Fang, A Comparison Between Online English Language Teaching and Classroom English Language Teaching, http://www.beiwaionline.com/tutor/2003collection/guofang.htm
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