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Chinglish Finds Takers Beyond China

Posted: Dec 28, 2011

BEIJING - Next time a friend asks about your shopping experience, just reply "people mountain people sea".

It is a literal translation of the Chinese expression renshan renhai, which is commonly used to describe a host of people jostling with each other.

An increasing number of new English words and phrases are being coined in China.

"I speak Chinglish, and my British assistants have adapted to Chinglish," Hu Ruyi, a senior Chinese engineer who works in Britain, told China Daily.

Now, everyone in his lab ends most of their talks with the word "geilivable" - a transliteration of a popular net word, which combines Chinese words gei li (give strength) with an English suffix to create a word meaning "empower", he said.

"I always grab language from my Asian friends, and I think I do adapt a lot of mystery language, that's what I call it, which my parents do not really understand," Michael Lee, an IT support worker who lives in Seattle, told China Daily.

"Our foreign colleagues in the Beijing office always try to learn Chinglish from us as a way to make friends," said 28-year-old Duan Chen, who works for a consultancy company. "That's the best way to team-build."

In fact, English has already absorbed many Chinese phrases, like "long time no see" (hao jiu bu jian), "no can do" (bu neng zuo) and "no go" (bu xing).

The Global Language Monitor, a San Diego-based consultancy that analyzes trends in language use worldwide, says Chinglish has contributed 5 to 20 percent of the words added to global English since 1994, more than any other single source.

TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which has a keen sense of changing linguistic trends, says it is also keeping an eye on Chinglish.

"We have to reflect global perspectives in higher education. The test will reflect it," Walt MacDonald, executive vice-president at Educational Testing Service (ETS), told China Daily in Beijing.

ETS introduced TOEFL to China 30 years ago and MacDonald said the number of test takers in China has increased constantly every year since then.

"Over the last 30 years, almost 3 million Chinese students took the TOEFL," he said.

In 2011, ETS launched the TOEFL Junior Test in China, which measures the English-language proficiency of students aged 11 to 14. With China's economic growth, more Chinese children are studying overseas at a younger age.

"The size of the Chinese English learner population is comparable to the total size of the US population," said Shen Yang, vice-director of the Education Ministry's department of international cooperation and exchange.

"We are proud of that, and now we are making the point that the international community should learn more about Chinese in return," he said.

He pointed out along with the national development at all levels, educational international cooperation has changed.

"Thirty years ago, we were only sending Chinese students to other countries to meet the increasing need for English and other foreign languages," he said.

"But today it has become a two-way flow," he said.

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