• Fri
  • Oct 31, 2014
  • Updated: 7:50pm
NewsChina Insider
MEDIA

Beijing’s call to ban foreign words in Chinese media meets with mocking satire

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 April, 2014, 6:10pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 8:52am

The Chinese authorities' recent call to banish foreign words in Chinese publications and broadcast has soon met with scathing sarcasm and mockery online.

The Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily has been waging a war on the direct use of non-Chinese words such as “iPhone” and “Wi-fi” in the Chinese language. The paper has published two editorials in the past week, claiming that “mingling foreign words in Chinese has damaged the Chinese language’s purity and undermined communication”.

The concerns come at a time when popular English terms and expressions have become more commonly used in the daily life of the Chinese than ever, as they embrace western cultural products such as Hollywood blockbusters and British TV dramas like Downton Abbey and Sherlock

The articles question why the Chinese language had to include English abbreviations while similar terms borrowed from other languages, for example “kung fu”, are always translated into English letters in English-speaking nations.

Guangming Daily, another major newspaper run by the Communist Party, on Sunday urged the authorities to step up their efforts in providing official Chinese translations for imported foreign words before they become widely used by the public.

However, members of the online community say they find the idea ridiculous and implausible, as substituted Chinese translations are almost always longer, more convoluted, and harder to get used to.

Many defiant internet users have published pretend online conversations substituting unwieldy translations for commonly-used English terms and abbreviations, mocking what they perceived as unnecessary official concerns.

By Sunday afternoon, the Weibo topic "Grand competition to keep the purity of the Chinese language," a jocular term coined by online users as they poke fun at the official campaign, had received almost 130,000 hits. 

“Excuse me, do you know where the Very Important Person lounge is?” one online user wrote, envisioning how a conversation would sound without using the English term VIP.

Another wrote: “Today’s level of ‘atmospheric particulate matter with diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less’ has broken the record again,” in a mock media report that avoids the use of PM2.5, which has become a household term amid China’s soaring air pollution.

Some observers say the latest campaign is part of Beijing’s renewed efforts to curb the growing foreign influence in the nation’s tightly-regulated media and popular culture. Chinese media reported during the weekend that top online video sites including Sohu Video have stopped providing online streaming of popular US TV dramas such as The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife

In 2012, the Chinese government formed a linguistics committee tasked with standardising the use of foreign words. Last year it approved and published the first 10 standardised Chinese translations for popular English terms like the WTO, Aids, and GDP, and ordered all media outlets to adopt the new terms. It is expected to roll out the second and third batches of official translations this year.

In one of the earlier efforts to reduce the use of English abbreviations in public, the state television network CCTV in 2010 banned its news anchors from using the term “NBA” during broadcasts, asking them to instead use the term “US professional basketball association”.

But this provoked an overwhelming backlash from audiences and basketball fans who over the years had become used to hearing and using the terms, calling the measure awkward and clumsy, and largely a formalism.

“‘CCTV’ itself has been used as a label on television for years, shouldn’t it change to its Chinese name as well?” asked one critic in response, echoed by many other users.

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This article is now closed to comments

athomeinhk
What's damaged the Chinese language is simplified characters
xiaoblueleaf
No true progress of the mind, no true progress. This explains Chinese are good at copying things but with few of her own inventions.
535eb958-befc-473f-9407-35020a320969
Communists were the ones who destroyed the Chinese characters. Now they lecture us about "purity"!
535e1ba6-5900-42d5-81a1-350b0a320969
They will never allow you to abandon the communist style slogans and writing. This would just draw all those "traitor" cries.
mistergreggreen
Totally agree with ******, simplified Chinese is the most meaningless, impure characters I've ever seen. I've heard many Chinese scholars talk about changing at least 2000 characters back to Traditional characters but so far I haven't seen them do it. They should change them all back.
dunndavid
Forget about impurity, simplified characters are less efficient. When promulgated in the last 1950s simplified characters were justified by the fact that the average traditional character had 13 strokes whereas simplified had 7 strokes on average. Fewer strokes meant faster writing and more efficiency.
Now fast forward to the present. Hand writing has largely been replace by digital input. For digital input the most important factor is ease of recognition. A more complex ideograph means easier recognition. Too few strokes means more confusion. So simple, go back to traditional Chinese.
One problem, you will see time and time again that whatever policy the CCP promoted in the past can not be abandoned even when it is no longer needed. That would mean admitting mistakes and that is to be avoided at all costs. So like with many other policies - the population policy comes to mind - simplified characters can not be jettisoned for a return to traditional policy. This kind of policy rigidity is endemic to all late era authoritarian regimes and increases the regimes fragility. Without the ability to adapt to new circumstances the regime is losing its ability to survive.
535e1ba6-5900-42d5-81a1-350b0a320969
Spot on dunndavid. In fact, this shows that in today's world, it is indeed the CCP and their backward ideas of theirs; they are the irrelevant and unnecessary ones in today's world.
keithkklau@gmail.com
to return the purity of Chinese, first thing to do is to abandon simplified character and re-adopt the traditional character. Second thing is to abandon those communist style slogan and wording.
535e1ba6-5900-42d5-81a1-350b0a320969
Oh they can't have that. You'll have a billion people frothing at you and calling you hanjian.
535e1ba6-5900-42d5-81a1-350b0a320969
So utterly useless and pathetic.
This smacks of redneck "racial purity".
Good work trying to get kids work in a GLOBALIZED environment with this.

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