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China Focus: Should "GDP," "V.I.P." be used in Chinese?

English.news.cn   2014-05-05 18:54:58

BEIJING, May 5 (Xinhua) -- "PM 2.5" has become a buzzword among Chinese who worry about air quality.

But now some people want to replace the term, which describes a type of pollution-linked particulate, with a lengthy, confusing Chinese equivalent to protect the purity of the Chinese language.

Three decades into China's opening up to the outside world, a growing number of loan words have been absorbed into daily use, ranging from WiFi to GDP, NBA and V.I.P.

The increased use of foreign words has sparked heated debate about the linguistic purity of the Chinese language.

The discussion was initiated by the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, which criticized the influx of imported words for harming the purity and health of the Chinese language in an editorial last week.

The phenomenon of mixing English words with the Chinese language, though seemingly stemming from laziness, in fact reflects a lack of confidence in the culture, said Du Chuijian, expert in Confucianism at the Beijing-based Capital Normal University.

However, the objection to foreign words has triggered dissent from members of the public, who say English abbreviations and acronyms have helped improve efficiency in daily communication.

In response to the alarm over foreign word incursion, online users created a handbook on how to speak to maintain the purity of the Chinese language. The handbook has been widely reblogged on Sina Weibo, China's most popular micro-blogging service.

"Excuse me, could you show me the departure lounge for Very Important Persons? Hi dude, tell me the password of the Wireless Fidelity please," wrote Sina users, citing examples of how to speak correctly without the use of English abbreviations in the handbook.

Rather than viewing foreign words as a threat, some hail the phenomenon as a mark of cosmopolitanism.

The inclusion of foreign words has not only enriched the Chinese language, but also facilitated Chinese people's contact with the outside world, said a commentary run by the Xinhua Daily Telegraph.

"Protecting language purity with a xenophobic mentality is actually a kind of language nationalism," it warned.

It is not the first time such debates have been heard in China. Two years ago, some linguists petitioned for the removal of English words from an authoritative Chinese dictionary and included their Chinese equivalents in the dictionary instead.

In 2010, China Central Television also triggered a backlash when it changed the frequently used "NBA" into "meizhilan," short for "American Professional Basketball League" in Chinese.

As more foreign words enter the Chinese language, some people have cited the addition of Chinese words to the English language as evidence of language exchange.

The 2013 Chinese buzzword "no zuo no die," meaning "if you don't do stupid things, they won't come back to bite you," has been included in the Urban Dictionary, an online dictionary with more than 7.7 million definitions, many for slang, buzzwords, and other words or phrases not found in standard dictionaries.

Other Chinglish words or phrases in the dictionary include "gelivable" (awesome or amazing), "people mountain people sea" (very crowded), "zhuangbility" (boastfulness), and "shability" (foolishness).

Some experts have suggested that the Chinese language is not as influential as English. They have advocated that the government formulate more specific guidelines on the use of borrowed words.

Though the public may choose what they like for daily use, the government still has the obligation to regulate the overuse of borrowed English words in official language, said Professor Gao Jian from Shanghai International Studies University.

"Language is a very important manifestation of cultural identity and we should protect it from losing its appeal," Gao said.

Editor: Zhu Ningzhu
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