Translation Guy Blog
The use of English words in Chinese publications is trashing the Chinese language and must be stopped, ruled the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP), the government body who’s recently announced diktat will restore the imperiled purity of the Chinese language and bring an end to the foreign words and abbreviations that have caused so much confusion by “abusing the language.”
All these foreign words have “severely damaged the standard and purity of the Chinese language and disrupted the harmonious and healthy language and cultural environment, causing negative social impacts,” announced the Chinese language lords on their website.
“It is banned to mix at will foreign language phrases such as English words or abbreviations with Chinese publications, creating words of vague meaning that are not exactly Chinese or of any foreign language,” it said.
“Publishing houses and the media must further strengthen the regulated use of foreign languages and respect the structure, glossary and grammar of the Chinese and foreign languages.”
GAPP said companies that violated the regulation would face “administrative punishment,” without offering specifics.
English can be used only “if necessary,” and must be followed by a direct translation of the abbreviation. English abbreviations such as NBA (National Basketball Association), GDP (gross domestic product), CPI (consumer price index) and WTO (World Trade Organisation) are commonly used in Chinese publications, according to the SMH.
Language has been the sandbox of the Communist Party since it seized power. To get things started, they rewrote most Chinese script to “simplify” it. Now foreign terms have been purged. I mean, I like revolutionary purity as much as the next guy, but man, come on, can’t you give the intelligentsia a break? Wait, wrong question. Who cares if a bunch of newspaper reports have to watch their Ps and Qs? Correct answer: Keep them on their toes. It reminds the intellectual class of whose vanguard is whose.
And all language purity lovers have to do is look across the Formosa Strait to see what a mess the Chinese can make of their language when they use if for their own profit and amusement. In Taiwan, Chinese speakers are busily globalizing their language into an alphabet soup of Chinese and Roman script. I did a post on this a while ago.
This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon in the Far East. Publishers have incorporated the ABC into native character sets for generations, and governments with the clout have been trying to stop it for just as long. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Japanese authorities purified Japanese through the removal of foreign words root and branch.
Both Koreas remain obsessed with the purity of the language. In North Korea “tens of thousands of common vocabularies and terminology have been purified from Chinese and foreign words.” This is because “Chinese and Japanese words had been brought into the Korean language in the past owing to the flunkeyism of feudal rulers and the Japanese imperialists’ moves to obliterate the Korean language.”
The feudal flunkeys in the South have been trying to recapture Korean purity too, but with less success, with English loan words only the latest wave in foreign language immersion. Before that there was Japanese during a 50-year occupation, then centuries next door to China. Chinese characters have been mostly eliminated from Korean publications, but English loan words are proving more difficult to eradicate.
Only time will tell if China’s foreign word ban will stick. It may be that in the future, fans of Chinglish will have to start smuggling their favorite phrases to the other side of the Great Firewall. Something like this: “Psst. Buddy, come here. Listen to this. ‘Shangri-la is in your mind, but your buffalo is not.’ Pass it on.”