As we previously reported, People’s Daily, the daily official newspaper of the Chinese government, published an article entitled “Why Is Zero Translation so Prevalent?” which deals with the pervasiveness of the linguistic phenomenon of zero translation within Chinese society. The phenomenon leads to the presence of borrowed terms or phrases, also known as loanwords, which have been incorporated into a language in its original foreign form, without a translation.
Among the several concerns, the authors of the article cite the presence of loanwords in academic documents like research papers. Their belief is that the practice ruins the Chinese language, making it less rich and causing it to affect Chinese culture altogether, which stands as more vulnerable to the Western influence. On top of these, the authors also believe that the insertion of foreign words into their language can hamper understanding, as not everyone can successfully decode the message behind words which have been written in a language which does not even make use of the same alphabet as the Chinese one.
The reasons why this practice has been increasingly used in recent years are many and varied. To begin with, there has been a growth in the number of Chinese citizens who can speak the English language, which is reflected in the number of English loanwords that are used in everyday conversation. The Internet, the boom of social media and the television and movie industries helped spread English, making zero translations more frequent.
In 2012, the Modern Chinese Dictionary included English loandwords because the authors responsible for it believed that dictionaries should reflect language usage and reality. Scholars who opposed the inclusion of the terms in the dictionary stated that the authors were acting against the law and would harm the Chinese language altogether.