Chinese Scholars Upset with Dictionary for Including English Phrases

Posted August 30th, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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A group of scholars in China is calling for the removal of English words from a respected Chinese dictionary, saying their presence is harming the purity of the Chinese language.

China's Xinhua news agency says the scholars have signed a petition arguing that the latest edition of the Modern Chinese Dictionary violates Chinese law by including 239 English words and acronyms.

Fu Zhenguo, a journalist who signed the petition, told Xinhua that if Chinese people continue to use English abbreviations such as “ATM” or “GDP,” they will eventually be speaking “a bizarre mixture of Chinese and English,” known by some as “Chinglish.”

The editor of the dictionary, Jiang Lansheng, tells the Shanghai Daily she does not want to replace Chinese words, but is only trying to make it easier for people to understand English phrases that are already commonly used in China.

It is not the first time that the dictionary has included English phrases. In its previous edition, the Modern Chinese Dictionary defined more than 120 English words. An earlier edition published in 1996 reportedly contained just 39 such terms.

But the petition hopes to put an end to that trend. It has reportedly been submitted to China's official state publishing watchdog, arguing that adding English phrases to Chinese dictionaries violates the country's Law on Standard Spoken and Written Chinese.

Chinese authorities have in the past cracked down on the use of foreign phrases in Chinese language newspapers, television, and websites. In 2010, Beijing's media regulators ordered media outlets to first translate the phrases into Chinese.

This has often resulted in Chinese equivalents that some say are needlessly wordy. Most notably, anchors at China Central Television were told to use the full Chinese translation of the “National Basketball Association” rather than the simple abbreviation “NBA.”