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Is it "Chinglish"? ---I don't tink so!

Popularity 6Viewed 5233 times 2014-5-24 09:27 |System category:Life| Chinglish

   I will always be fascinated by beautiful English sentences, such as:

 

   Since your ship was first launched upon the sea of life you have never been still for a single moment; the sea is too deep, you could not find an anchorage if you would; there can be no pause until you come into port.

 

   All white save the river, that marked its course by a winding black line across the landscape; and the leafless trees, that against the leaden sky now revealed more fully the wonderful beauty and intricacies of their branches.

 

   From a biological standpoint, human life almost reads like a poem. It has its own rhythm and beat, its internal cycles of growth and decay.

 

   Etc.

 

   Upon entering the high school, I had been fed up with writing plain and ordinary sentences which shows little imagination or thinking. I tried to use some imaginative rhetoric just as I was writing a composition in Chinese. But as a result, my English teacher in her fifties, who is said to be experienced but in my view a little stubborn and conservative, referred to my compositions as “Chinglish”. This kind of circumstances was numerous; I remember quarreling with her for a couple of times. (I’m sorry for this; it is partly due to the conceit I had got then. But I still think she’s a little conservative even now.)

    Content of what we quarrel about is mostly forgotten, but one remains distinct. I wrote once: “Every time......I’ll sank into deeper and deeper darkness”, meaning a stage of depression I got into in a figurative sense. It’s somewhat poetic in Chinese. However it was not understandable to others, my teacher said. Yet I could not change this habit of using my imagination, as if not, I would loss the interest in writing in English. Actually on the whole, I still got better grades in writing then than my fellow classmates.

 

 

   Now I’m in college; we don’t have much time communicating with our English teacher, and assignments are no longer much. Some days ago, our teacher recommended us a website to improve our writing skills. Compositions are examined by computer, or manual work if you like. I got 87 with a full mark of 100. Not too bad. But as I looked at the mistakes it pointed out to me, I was confused. It considered some phrases in my composition such as “a bible for life”, “those wisdom of the past”,“the interaction between their heart”, “marvelous declaration”, “endless inspiration” as mistakes because they’re not in store in the system, and suspected them as “Chinglish”.

 

 

   It seems to have put human brain in an inferior stage to a computer system, ignoring its imagination and flexibility. There may be some mistakes in my sentences, I admit, but I’ll never regard this mechanic method as a good way to improve our English writing. On the contrary, it kills creativity and interest English may arouse in students’ mind.

 

   Are those phrases and sentences really “Chinglish”? Passers-by of my blog, please help me if you would. And will you have such problems where you think what you write is right but is regarded as “Engnese”(English Chinese) or “Chinglish”?

 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


Passing

Eggs

Flowers

Shake hands

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Reply Report bex 2014-5-25 08:02
breathtaking is an often used English word how come it got classified into chinglish ?  this dictionary make no sense..
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-5-25 22:46
I will leave the close-up investigation to native speakers, but can't hold myself back!

I can understand your interest in such sentences packing deep thoughts, however I gues you need more... practice and exposure to English. You can start reading aphorisms by famous authors, and see how the 表达方式 is in English. Or try to read books translated to Chinese! The words, the language... all CORRECT, but as a native speaker you'd feel that it's unusual, weird, and smells of translation.

The "flowery" English and flowery Chinese are very different in structure. (Flower-y language is like... Lots of poetic expressions) So the sentences I see on... notebooks usually, or on people's clothing in China struck me as... weird. They try to convey a kind of wisdom but it fails, and appears to be meaningless. I told you English is not my native language but I was a comparative literature major, and was good at literary analysis, so in a way I'm more "used to" how English works.

Your sentence looks Chinglish to me as well, because... for example, do you really "remember" tragedies which are "breathtaking"?
Breathtaking tragedy ? (A tragedy not necessarily takes you breath away. It impresses you to a great extent but you need another adj)
Do you remember ancient Greek tragedies? (You remember something you experienced. Have you ever "experienced" any Greek tragedy? No, we can't have memories of them because we just heard or read them, didn't encounter them on the way to school)

As I said I'll leave the detailed investigation to native speakers. It's not about lack of creativity, it's about not getting into the "nature" of an adjective, not being very familiar with the usage of a word. Poetic in English is a lot different from poetic in Chinese. It's very hard to explain, I can guess it must've been very hard for your teacher to explain as well, because native speakers "acquire" a language but others "study" it. So, skills like this which require the student to have a solid understanding is... something that needs to come from within, it can't be thought. I'm sure if you had lots of Chinese-speaking foreign friends their speech patterns would struck you as a foreign Chinese as well. That's why I advice you to read aphorisms in English, and books translated into Chinese.
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-5-25 22:51
I know there can be a lot better examples, but I remembered one thing I asked my language partner. I told him:

"我做的所有的事情不是因为我是外国人" which gramatically looks correct. But it's very "English translation" (Not everything I do is...)
He understood what I mean, but said "我做任何事情不是因为我是外国人" would sound better. Actually I'm not sure if this is what he exactly said  

Help foreigners correcting their essays in Chinese. And after seeing the laowai-Chinese you'll understand what "Chinglish" feels like!
Reply Report ExileMick 2014-5-25 23:28
'Breathtaking' is normally used in a very positive sense e.g. a breathtaking view, a breathtaking beauty, a breathtaking finale. As you have used it, there is a conflict between the implication of something positive and the negativity of 'tragedies'.

'A bible for life' doesn't make sense in English. I would need to know the context in which you had used it to advise you better.

'Those wisdom of the past'. Again, without knowing the context, I can only suggest that 'the wisdom of the past' would be better as 'those' denotes a plural yet the word 'wisdom' is all encompassing i.e. it is neither singular nor plural. Also, 'the past' could be more specific.

'The interaction between their heart' .... and, what? As it is, this is incomplete and the reader needs to know what the heart interacted with. Perhaps 'the interaction between their hearts' though this isn't exactly good grammar. It is vague and 'interaction' isn't normally used to describe matters of the heart.

'Marvellous declaration' could, actually, be correct English grammatically though I would like to read the complete sentence in which it was used before I could be certain.

'Endless inspiration' could, again, be correct though this would depend on the sentence containing it.

Tell me more, I will try to advise you further.
Reply Report moor_wanderer 2014-5-26 00:02
Maierwei: I will leave the close-up investigation to native speakers, but can't hold myself back!

I can understand your interest in such sentences packing deep ...
Thank you very much for your such a long reply!It must has taken you a lot of time...
I knew there were some differences between English and Chinese, but I never thought the gaps could be so deep that I was also trapped just as my classmates were!
Now I feel nevous and worried when I am typing these letters, thingking that this may not be grammatical or that may not make sense.
Actually your warnings stimulate my interest in English rather than frustrate me.
There are really a lot to be learned and acquired in English.
Again, thank you very much , from the bottom of my heart!
Reply Report moor_wanderer 2014-5-26 00:09
ExileMick: 'Breathtaking' is normally used in a very positive sense e.g. a breathtaking view, a breathtaking beauty, a breathtaking finale. As you have used it,  ...
Here it is.It has a assigned title-Let the classics be classics.

   A country is made a country by its history, so does man. A man becomes man rather than an animal only when he absorbs his country’s civilization created in its long history, without which he would never get anywhere in life. Were people today so proud and ignorant that they even think nothing of the wisdom of the past? Crazy enough. What should be well aware of is that the future we’re heading for, and the past, though we have never experienced, can never be departed as in every period of the long history, one thing remains constant, that is, the questioning into the value of life in every human being’s heart. And the answers explored and given by early sages or thinkers will undoubtedly enlighten people of today and future. And those wisdom of the past is largely concentrated in classics.
   Every piece of classics is, in my view, nothing but a bible for life. How wonderfully thoughtful and brilliant those architects of master pieces are! Thinking of this, I can’t help catching my breath every time I’m confronted with them. They must have explored the depth and width of human heart and society so that they can create a world just as splendid as the reality.
   Do you remember the breathtaking tragedies of ancient Greece, which illustrated tragic but magnificent life scene? Do you remember Oedipus the King, who tried every means to fight against his doomed fate, but still failed, ending in killing his father and marrying his mother? While reading, our heart can’t help trembling with those heroes; but conversely, in Aristotle’s words, they also purified our mind, enhancing our courage in the face of adversity in life. Look, there comes Jane Eyre, poor but of strong ego and principle. What a lovely woman she is! She loves Mr. Rochester not because of his fortune, but the interaction between their hearts. “Our spirits are equal, just as we walk though the graves and stand at the feet of God” said Jane. This marvelous declaration echoes forever in the valleys of history, enlightening us what should really be pursued, not the worldly possessions that would vanish anyway some day, but the spirit which really defines a man.
   Wide is the sea of wisdom of the past, and classics are like the grains of sand on the beach, shining so brightly in the sun. You may get to know what to do when you pick up some of the grains. It will lead you in the darkness like the north star, and will give you endless inspirations for the future just like the spring fountain.
   So, let the classics be classics. Only when we value them correctly, can we make best use of them and head for the future confidently.
Reply Report moor_wanderer 2014-5-26 00:15
ExileMick: 'Breathtaking' is normally used in a very positive sense e.g. a breathtaking view, a breathtaking beauty, a breathtaking finale. As you have used it,  ...
I really appreciate your concern over my problems!
I hope it won't be a burden to you. Just deal with it when it is convenient for you.
It's late. Have a good sleep!
Reply Report claudeckenni 2014-5-26 01:16
Yes, I agree with Maierwei. You are learning and you shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes. Yes, I tink so! =)
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-5-26 03:31
moor_wanderer: Thank you very much for your such a long reply!It must has taken you a lot of time...
I knew there were some differences between English and Chinese,  ...
I thank you very much! It's great that the difference stimulates your interest rather than making you frustrated, because it's not something to get frustrated about! I'm glad to see that challenges encourage you.

It just takes getting used to. Your grammar and choice of words can be appropriate and correct (and yours look so) but the challenge comes when you try to use "condensed" expressions, or a poetic tone, because it's a different dimension. It takes time to master it! There's no need to be nervous when you talk to people or write blogs, the hardest is aiming at a philosophical exploration in a foreign language.

Learning a language is not only learning words and their meanings, it's about introducing your brain a totally different way of thinking. When you speak a different language, your brain naturally adapts to the environment of that language, do you see what I mean?

Let's do our best, 加油!
Reply Report ExileMick 2014-5-26 18:25
If you will allow me to be so bold, I have rewritten your words while carefully trying to remain within your style. I am sending it to you in a message
Reply Report angelalulu11 2014-5-26 23:19
I am a new blogger who just registered the account. And I learn a lot from your essay and some warm-hearted people's comments. Hope we can make more progress and avoid Chinglish. 加油!
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-5-27 00:36
thought I would put in my bit

" Crazy enough. What should be well aware of is that the future we’re heading for"  You need to state who is aware. S.b. is well aware of s.th.

"and the past, though we have never experienced, can never be departed" To depart is to physically leave somewhere. we would say forgotten.

"And the answers explored and given by early sages or thinkers will undoubtedly enlighten people of today and future." we never start a sentence with and like this. You can start with the. Future needs to be "the future". In most uses of "future" it is often preceded by "the".

"And those wisdom of the past is largely concentrated in classics."  Here you have said those which is plural and so the following noun "wisdom" must also be plural.

" Every piece of classics is" in English we don't need the 量词 "every classic" is fine.

"depth and width of human heart and society" If it is 1 human heart, we would say "a human heart" if it is plural we would say "human hearts" if abstract like your piece we would say "the human heart"

"Do you remember the breathtaking tragedies of ancient Greece" you can in fact use breathtaking here as you are referring to he tragedies in terms of the great books and stories and not actually something bad.

Sorry, Im sleepy as it's 12:30 and for now that's all I have. Hope it's of use!
Reply Report moor_wanderer 2014-5-27 22:46
ExileMick: If you will allow me to be so bold, I have rewritten your words while carefully trying to remain within your style. I am sending it to you in a messag ...
I really appreciate your work!
I really should learn more and deeper of the language. Mere words and their meanings are never enough.
Thank you for correcting my mistakes again!

I‘m sorry, I replied the upper words to you in the message part but I didn't see it. So I replied here again. If you receive my three replies...well,ignore two of them ,hehe.Good night!
Reply Report moor_wanderer 2014-5-27 22:48
angelalulu11: I am a new blogger who just registered the account. And I learn a lot from your essay and some warm-hearted people's comments. Hope we can make more p ...
I'm really happy that my blog helps you learn something!
Make progress~
Reply Report moor_wanderer 2014-5-27 22:58
seanboyce88: thought I would put in my bit

" Crazy enough. What should be well aware of is that the future we’re heading for"  You need to state who is ...
You've been great help to me,thank you!
In Chinese, it's ok if we don't state who is aware. It is a Chinglish I were not aware of.
For the second suggestion, I think it is because I didn't pay much attention to the differences between words but only remembered their chinese meanings.
I really need to read more English essays and think more.
Thank you again!
Hope you had a good sleep last night!
Reply Report ExileMick 2014-5-27 23:34
seanboyce88: thought I would put in my bit

" Crazy enough. What should be well aware of is that the future we’re heading for"  You need to state who is ...
No! You can't and shouldn't use 'breathtaking' in that context. The Greek tragedies were stories and plays that showed the tragedies of life and emotions. Breathtaking would never be used by anyone with a reasonable command of English when referring to a tragedy, be it in a story, book, legend, ancient Greek or otherwise. It isn't good grammar.
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-5-27 23:54
ExileMick: No! You can't and shouldn't use 'breathtaking' in that context. The Greek tragedies were stories and plays that showed the tragedies of life and emoti ...
breath·tak·ing  (brĕth′tā′kĭng)
adj.
1. Inspiring or exciting: a breathtaking view; a breathtaking ride.
2. Astonishing; astounding: breathtaking insensitivity.

The quality of the Greek tragedy was astonishing, or you could say it was breathtaking.

Yes you can. If something is so awe inspiring it takes your breathe away it can simply be called breathtaking.
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-5-28 00:12
seanboyce88: breath·tak·ing  (brĕth′tā′kĭng)
adj.
1. Inspiring or exciting: a breathtaking view; a breathtaking ride.
2. Astonishing; astounding: breathtaki ...
As we see here, being  native English speaker doesn't mean you agree with other native speakers' feelings about language use  

Actually both ExileMick and seanboyce88 are right. Breathtaking is not grammatically wrong there, and CAN BE used, it's not against any rule. So seanboyce is saying that the quality was astonishing, therefore you can use "breathtaking".

ExileMick says it's wrong, because it doesn't sound that... natural. Poetic expressions can include unusual adjectives, but it's about the "feeling". The meaning is alright! But the connection.... is questionable.

In my opinion "breathtaking" doesn't match with tragedies either. seanboyce88 shared the definition of the word, but here comes the philosophical part. When do we feel astonished, what excites us? This is again about usage. Of course Greek tragedies can excite you, but "breathtaking" is refers to a personal encounter, me thinks. Like, you climb a high mountain, and from the peak you look down and feel it's BREATHTAKING! And you're sitting on your bed, reading a Greek tragedy, you finally finish and? You are very impressed, of course, but that kind of feeling must be different from being on top of a mountain. One, no matter how vivid the narration is, something you "indirectly" experience (reading a tragedy) and the other is something you perceive through your own senses (being on top of a mountain).

Good literature makes people feel 感动, we all know. But breathtaking refers to... a different kind of experience. This is just my opinion!
Reply Report seanboyce88 2014-5-28 00:53
Maierwei: As we see here, being  native English speaker doesn't mean you agree with other native speakers' feelings about language use   

Actually both E ...
I agree, it may be way too over the top for such a situation...but GRAMMATICALLY speaking it's not wrong. In mick's own words "it isn't good grammar"...I disagree. It's not a good use of the word, but there is no Grammatical flaw. It's too over the top to describe a tragedy, but if it did somehow take your breathe away then you could use breathtaking in this sense. Maybe the ending had a big twist that took your breathe away.

I remember reading a dance with dragons (not a greek tragedy I know but a book nonetheless) and literally gasping as it finished, it ends ambiguously and was breathtaking in that it literally took my breath away.

So yes, grammatically correct, maybe waaaaay over the top, but you can technically speaking use it as it is just a verb, just maybe not suitable for about 99% of situations. I just think that English is a descriptive langauge which is very adaptable. So in any situation where your breath is taken away...you can describe it as breathtaking. Ballet can be breathtaking, a play can be breathtaking...so can a book or a story.
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-5-28 01:14
seanboyce88: I agree, it may be way too over the top for such a situation...but GRAMMATICALLY speaking it's not wrong. In mick's own words "it isn't good gram ...
Right! So I was just saying it's grammatically right, but meaning-wise sounds a little unnatural and maybe exaggerated. But can understand what you mean, reading Goethe's Faust had taken my break away as well. If you asked me to talk about my experience however, I most probably wouldn't say breathtaking.

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  • Is it "Chinglish"? ---I don't tink so! 2014-5-29 15:06

    seanboyce88: I agree, it may be way too over the top for such a situation...but GRAMMATICALLY speaking it's not wrong. In mick's own words "it isn't good gram ...
    No, it's only correct in that it was used as an adjective to describe something. It was, however, incorrect in the context in which it was used.

    No one who has witnessed the execution of a serial killer would describe it as being a 'happy execution' yet the relatives of the victims may well have felt this emotion at seeing, in their eyes, justice being done.

    Ballet could never be described as 'breathtaking' though a particular performance might well deserve such an accolade. Similarly, it would be the performance of a play that would merit such praise, not the play itself.

    It is my understanding that you were born in the UK and that English is your first language. This entitles you to have a private opinion on the use of English but by no means qualifies you to lecture others on what is or isn't correct grammar especially those with many years of studying this wonderful language and who may rejoice in the title of a Master of English.

    You have opined that 'English is a descriptive language' and, whilst this is indeed true, it is also an accurate and concise language in that there is a word for almost everything. e.g. would you say that you are scared of heights or would you use the correct term and say that you are afraid of heights? The difference is there for a reason and that is to express exactly that which is intended to be understood.

    Shame on you, lad, for such ignorance of your own language.

  • Is it "Chinglish"? ---I don't tink so! 2014-5-28 18:59

    Maierwei: I haven't      I'm so "uncool" in terms of following the popular books&films... But will give The Game of Thrones a chance!
    the books are really good actually...of course it's only my opinion. he has no fear of killing off a loved character, very enjoyable

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