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A Good Read: The Efficiency of "Chinglish"

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Michael Erard suggests in Wired Magazine that the version of English that many Chinese speak, and that visitors to Beijing might hear during the summer Olympics, could have some advantages over the standard version that you and I may speak.

He writes: "...it's possible Chinglish will be more efficient than our version, doing away with word endings and the articles a, an, and the. After all, if you can figure out 'Environmental sanitation needs your conserve,' maybe conservation isn't so necessary."

Anyway, I like this article because it contains a fresh perspective on how some versions of English serve a purpose rather than being simply wrong. It's something to keep in mind when working with ELLs. Back in the mid-1980s, I was an English teacher in China for two years, and since I spoke only rudimentary Chinese, I was grateful when I encountered anyone who spoke English, regardless of the version.

I recall a story a friend told me about how a group of people from different countries involved in a World Bank project were sitting around chatting in English. The only person in the group that everyone had trouble understanding, she relayed, was one of the persons who spoke English as a first language, a Brit. The others spoke an international version of English devoid of idioms and witticisms that would be difficult for a second-language learner to understand.

(The Wired Magazine story came to me via This Week in Education by way of Joanne Jacobs.)

2 Comments

Your discussion reminds me of "franglais" a mixture of French and English, which was mooted as the new lingua franca for Europe, twenty years ago!

Didn't happen.

Perhaps there should be serious discussion on Esperanto as well?

I would personally recommend http://www.lernu.net

My kids who are Chinese speak Chinglish to each other all the time. I don't know very much Chinese so they English to me. It's called code switching. There was a thing where a Korean girl in my class at the end of the school year was asking me something that I couldn't understand. A boy told me that she was speaking Konglish! She mixed up Korean and English and didn't know I couldn't understand because of one word she used that was Korean.

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