First, Mr. Yang's Two Cents; Then, Mine
What Is Chinglish?Basically, any language that becomes non-standard thanks to foreign-language influences wins a prize: its own portmanteau. English speakers usually make theirs by plucking the first syllable of the foreign language and blending -nglish for its second, giving us Spanglish, Franglish, etc. These terms refer either to a language that English has influenced or to English that a foreign language has influenced. Here, we will be talking about the latter, English that Chinese has influenced.
The standards that these latter glishes ignore usually have to show that English is not the glish speaker's native language. That is, a glish can't just be English plus some loanwords or code-switching. Foreign phonological, morphological, lexical, and syntactic imports all have to be there. They also have to be endemic. That is, a lot of foreign-language natives have to make the same kinds of "errors" when attempting to comprehend or use English.
The words "errors" above belong in quotation marks. "As long as people can understand what the hell you're saying, then […] it's good English." In fancier terms, Mr. Yang is a linguistic descriptivist, not a prescriptivist. The difference? If an utterance doesn't fit an English description, English natives won't be able to recognize it as English. If, however, an utterance doesn't fit an English prescription, snooty English natives won't be willing to recognize it as English. Now, there are reasons to care about prescriptions. Sometimes we have to fit in with the snoots or produce clearer utterances. Mr. Yang's point, however, is that most foreign English speakers don't.
You can explain some Chinglish give me?Mr. Yang's snapshot of Chinglish lightly pokes at Chinese English learners' failed acquisition of some standard English phonology and syntax. However, he funnily treats Chinglish as an argot which native English speakers can learn. What's interesting, however, is not that they "go wrong," but where specifically they "go wrong."
Chinglish Phonology:How Mr. Yang puts it:
- "Lesson 1: Pronounce every word extra clearly and with a weird tone."
- "Lesson 1.1: Speak English words by vocalizing all stop consonants if they are written in the language's orthography."
- "Lesson 1.2: Break the final coda from the English word, and then add /ɤ/ to the dangling onset, or remove the dangling onset, whichever matches a Mandarin syllable more closely."
- First, pronounced /ˈfɜrs⟨t⟩/ in English, becomes /ˈfɜrsɤˈtʰɤ/ in Chinglish;
- Yes, pronounced /ˈyɛs/ in English, becomes /yɛˈsɤ/ in Chinglish; and
- Right, pronounced /ˈraɪ⟨t⟩/ in English, becomes /ˈraɪ˧˥/ in Chinglish.
- "Lesson 2: Randomly put letters in words."
- "We never pronounce the ⟨th⟩."
- "Lesson 2.1: If a consonant immediately precedes /i/ in the final syllable, replace it with /eɪ/."
- "Lesson 2.2: Replace /ɪ/ with /eɪ/."
- "Lesson 2.3: Replace /θ/ with /s/."
- "Lesson 2.4: Replace /ʌn/ with /əŋ/."
- "Lesson 2.5: Replace /mɪ/ with /mi/."
- Sorry, pronounced /ˈsɒri/ in English, becomes /ˈsɒreɪ/ in Chinglish;
- Lonely, pronounced /ˈloʊnli/ in English, becomes /ˈloʊnleɪ/ in Chinglish;
- Carefully, pronounced /ˌkɛərfəˈli/ in English, becomes /ˌkɛərfəˈleɪ/ in Chinglish;
- Ugly, pronounced /ˈʌgli/ in English, becomes /ˈʌgɤˈleɪ/ in Chinglish;
- Fish, pronounced /fɪʃ/ in English, becomes /feɪʃ/ in Chinglish;
- Something, pronounced /ˈsʌmˌθɪŋ/ in English, becomes /ˈsʌmˌsɪŋ/ in Chinglish;
- Monday, pronounced /ˈmʌndeɪ/ in English, becomes /ˈməŋdeɪ/ in Chinglish; and
- Miss, pronounced /mɪs/ in English, becomes /mis/ in Chinglish.
Chinglish Syntax:Mr. Yang's Chinglish syntax lesson calls on us to "speak English with Chinese grammar." He then provides examples of common word-for-word Chinese-to-English translations.
In some cases, Mr. Yang is actually pointing out how foreign-language learners assume that ellipsis works the same way across languages, so they translate the Chinese sentence before inserting the words that English natives would not have removed:
→ How to say?
:: How do [you] say [this (i.e. that) word 'X']?
→ How do you say that?
(Note: The English auxiliary do has no exact match in Mandarin, so is highlighted above.)
→ I very like.
:: I very much like [it].
→ I like it very much.
(Note: '很' can translate to 'very' and 'very much'. Also, when it refers to a situation or is a dummy pronoun, to insert a pronoun '它' would be a symptom of Westernized Chinese [歐化中文].)
→ You bad bad!
:: You are (i.e. so) bad!
→ You're so bad!
(Note: Reduplications of Chinese "stative" verbs can intensify them, similarly to how English does with the intensifier 'so' in adjective phrases.)
→ I want to hang out together with you.
→ I want to play together with you.
(Note: This may be the result of confusing two senses of '廝混', one meaning 'hang out', and another meaning 'play around' in a more flirtatious or sexual context.)
- I have already eaten.
→ I already eat. / I eat already.
- I already went there.
→ I already go there. / I go there already.
- I had already met her.
→ I already meet her. / I meet her already.
What's Mr. Yang's beef with drilling vocabulary?
|Were I a Chinese English student, |
my first wish would be
for the sweet release of death!
These books are not made to be read, anyway. Rather, they're made to be made to be read. The purpose of word books is to pass blame from teachers to students. Instead of language teachers' actually giving their students broader, firmer comprehension of fewer English terms, they force them to buy these mini dictionaries and read them like chapter books. This allows Chinese teachers to "test" their students' vocabulary retention each week. But, what about three weeks from that test date? Their answer: "Who cares?" If a student gets a good grade, both the teacher and the student look good. If a student gets a bad grade, though, only the student gets blamed. He clearly needs to study more from this book. After all, it offers:
Clearly, the student must be at fault here…
Mr. Yang and I agree on this point: Honing all of one's efforts on any one aspect of a language will come at the cost of not attending to others. A sane language-learning method should engage as many aspects as it can at once, but not force you to cram any one aspect in its entirety. Like swimming, the coordination of parts matters most. If you don't want to drown, get in the water, but stay at the shallow end. Then, at your own pace, wade into deeper waters. That's how language acquisition should feel, and that's the best course I know around the Chinglish Channel.