English use in China
China is seeking to have citizens learn English because it is needed in this day and age of globalization and international trade. However, China remains a country that is steeped in tradition and in some cases, politics has been playing a major role in some decisions that can affect internal as well as international relations.
There are several newspapers in China that are published in English and even Chinese publications that use English abbreviations because there is no other way to go around them. Some of these include VIP, CEO, WiFi, WTO, and GDP. They even use the term PM2.5 to refer to the air pollutant.
This use, which is termed ‘zero translation’ is what caused the debate to start once again. This time, the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party joined in. They were decrying the prevalent use of zero translation, and even cited an excerpt from a news about the advantages of using an open source platform, which in this case used the name of the application as well as common technology terms as HTML5 and YouTube. The authors also added that the Chinese already have translations for Motorola and Nokia and questioned why there is still no Chinese translation for iPad or iPhone. They were irked that what they call foreign terms are used online and in newspapers as well as science journals.
Effect on Chinese language
For all this uproar, their claim was that the continued practice of using foreign terms would damage the harmony and integrity of the Chinese language and that this dilutes the richness of Chinese culture. Likewise they claimed that this would hinder comprehension, asking how many people can actually understand these foreign words.
However, it should be noted that the Chinese language had already absorbed some English words, such as “qiaokeli” (chocolate), “tanke” (tank) and “leida” (radar). Commercially, the Chinese translation for global brand, Coca-Cola, “kekou kele” is often hailed as best brand translation so far. This Chinese translation means tasty and jolly. Because these translations have been given Chinese characters, the foreign terms blend in with the rest of the text quite well.
Scarcity of good translators
What the authors were worried about is the direct use of these English words (without Chinese translation) together with Chinese. Some of those engaged in the national debate believed this is caused by the fact that there are more Chinese that speak English today and they easily switch between English and Chinese when they write or converse. The spread of English in China is greatly helped by the Internet and the popularity of British and U.S. films and dramas. The authors from People’s Daily also added that other causes could be laziness and that good translators are getting scarce.
The other time that a national debate erupted on the use of English was when authorities banned the use of NBA (National Basketball Association) in 2010. The official term that was given was “mei zhi lan,” which translates to American Professional Basketball