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This paper is a general study of one of varieties of English--China English and its influence on English Language Teaching (ELT) for English majors. The status of English as an International language breaks the situation in which British English or American English is the sole standard. English becomes World Englishes, taking on a plural form, which include many varieties of English with nativized cultural, political and economical characteristics. Researchers in China believe that China English as a variety of English has been objectively in existence and become a lingua franca. It consolidates the cultural identity of the Chinese speakers of English, enriches the multiple identities of English and plays an important role in promoting Chinese culture internationally. For teachers of English majors, it presents challenges to their traditional view of language teaching.Télécharger gratuit ERIC EJ1082786: China English and ELT for English Majors pdf
English Language Teaching
Vol. 1, No. 2
China English and ELT for English Majors
School of Foreign Languages
This paper is a general study of one of varieties of English—China English and its influence on English Language
Teaching (ELT) for English majors. The status of English as an International language breaks the situation in which
British English or American English is the sole standard. English becomes World Englishes, taking on a plural form,
which include many varieties of English with nativized cultural, political and economical characteristics. Researchers in
China believe that China English as a variety of English has been objectively in existence and become a lingua franca. It
consolidates the cultural identity of the Chinese speakers of English, enriches the multiple identities of English and
plays an important role in promoting Chinese culture internationally. For teachers of English majors, it presents
challenges to their traditional view of language teaching.
Keywords: World Englishes, China English, Cultural identity, English language teaching
The widespread of English and its importance in international communication has established its status as an
international language or a global language (Crystal, 1997). The Indian linguist Brai Kachru (1985, 1992) views English
today in terms of three concentric circles: the Inner Circle, the outer circle and the expanding circle. The inner circle
refers to the places where English is a native language (ENL), including the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and
New Zealand. The Outer Circle involves the earlier phases of the spread of English in non-native settings, where
English is a second language, including Singapore, India, Malaysia and fifty other territories (ESL). The Expanding
Circle involves those nations which recognize the English as a foreign language (EFL), including China, Japan, Greece,
Poland, and an increasing number of other countries. A plural word Englishes came into use, which had been admitted
by scholars such as Strang (1970), Strevens (1982), and Kachru (1997,1980). As language expresses, embodies and
symbolizes cultural reality (Kramsch, 1998:3), the pluralistic English has taken upon itself double roles: one is
manifestation of Westemness, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the other is the representation of the culture of its speaker.
As Kachru states,“English has multiple identities...in the international contexts, English represents a repertoire of
cultures, not a monolithic culture”! 1989: 86). It is in this context that the issue of China English has been brought into
discussion. What is the status of China English? How is it used? What is its influence on foreign language teaching,
particularly on teaching English for English majors?
2. The status quo of China English study in China
In view of the multiplicity of English and the increasing attention on it, it’s justified to regard the English spoken and
used by Chinese people as one of its varieties. Here I would like to use the term China English. China English is
different from Chinglish since the latter is a term the foreigners use to describe the substandard language phenomenon
occurring in the English spoken by the Chinese, due to the influence of the Chinese language. The difference between
these two concepts has for long time been the object of attention in the field of linguistics. So far as I am concerned, the
major difference lies in their acceptability. China English can be accepted by other English speakers while Chinglish is
despised as substandard.
China English means the English spoken or used by speakers with a Chinese linguistic and cultural background. The
concept of China English and the discussion of it was brought about by Ge Chuangui (1982) when he talked about some
issues of translation from Chinese into English. He said that in translating things typically Chinese it was inevitable to
use some Chinese expressions for English, such as Four Books (si shu), Five Classics (wu jing),ju ren, xiu cai, etc., of
which the equivalent couldn’t be found in English. Many scholars joined the discussion in the wake including Sun Li
(1989), Wang Rongpei (1991), Li Wenzhong (1993), Xie Zhijun (1995), Du Ruiqing& Jiang Yajun (2001) and Pan
Zhangxian (2002,2005). World Englishes published a special issue on English in China from interdisciplinary
perspectives, providing ideas and thought in the issue “how cultural, linguistic and literary contact between China and
Vol. 1, No. 2
English Language Teaching
the West has been mediated by the English language and what the current status, functions and features of English are in
China” (Pan, 2005). These studies of China English point to a fact that China English has become an objective
3. China English in use
China English is now used in many fields such as in intercultural communication, in contact literature, and in
international community of English.
3.1 China English in China s Intercultural Communication
In expressing things typically Chinese things that have no counterparts in English, we resort to China English
expressions, such as Cultural Revolution, Red Guard, Mahjong, Fengshui, etc. Even in cases that an English semantic
equivalent convey with different expression, China English may be purposefully adopted by the user so as to enhance
his or her Chinese identity apart from showing the Chineseness of the English expression. In journals of external
publicity, there is an increasing tendency to use China English wording. For instance,
(1) There is an old Chinese saying, How can you catch tiger cubs without entering the tiger's lair ? The saying holds
true for man’s practice and it also holds true for the theory of knowledge.
This is a translation of a quotation from Mao Zedong’s On Practice, published by Foreign Language Press in 1964. In
English there is one equivalent: Noting ventured, nothing gained. However, it fails to communicate to the readers the
cultural implications of that the tiger carries in Chinese culture.
(2) Three cobblers with their wits combined equal Zhuge Liang the master mind. In other words, the masses have great
creative power, (published by Being Foreign Language Press in 1965).
In Chinese culture, the historical figure Zhuege Liang represents one of the greatest minds, so familiar to the Chinese
people that he became a symbol of wisdom. In English, similar meaning is conveyed by “Two heads are better than one”,
which is used less vividly. In English, “Solomon” is a biblical figure used as a metaphor for a wise person, however
“three cobblers make one Solomon” would lose the original Chinese color in the works by Mao Zedong.
(3 )Good wine is not afraid of being located at the end of a long lane. (China Today, Vol.49, No.7, 2000)
In English we find its equivalent: Good wine needs no bush. Both idioms are intended for things that are of true value
and that don’t need advertisements. However, they carry different cultural features, though similar in meaning. The
Chinese idiom reflects a cultureof agricultural production typical of traditional Chinese society, in which manual
production was an additional mode of economy apart from fanning. There is also another Chinese element, lane,
emphasizing the folk way of living. Still, the translation of the Chinese idiom allows for improvement in the rendering
of jiu into wine, as wine is not more Chinese than liquor. In contrast, the English idiom emphasizes the more highly
developed commercial civilization.
3.2 China English in Contact Literature
According to Kachru (1992), English has four functions in the expanding circles of it: instrumental (as a medium in
education, regulative (as a regulative instrument in the legal system and administration), interpersonal (as a lingua
franca in interpersonal communication), creative (as a language in creative and imaginative writings). Contact literature
refers to the non-native writing or non-native English literature, or English-language literature by non-native writers. As
an extension of contact language which has both a face of its own and a face of the language with which it has contact,
contact literature is a blend of two or more linguistic textures and literary traditions. Contact literature writers such as
Lin Yutang, Amy Tan, and Jung Chang, etc. consciously or not, are using China English in writing. They write for
westerners or the native speakers of English rather than the Chinese readers while drawing on Chinese stories as their
fictional resources, which cater to the needs of the western readers to understand China and the life of Chinese people.
Lin Yutang is known for his achievements in introducing Chinese culture to the West. In his works, we find a distinct
Chinese cultural identity in his purposeful use of China English.
(1) The Dog-Meat General was called a man of three-don ’t-knows. He didn’t know how many soldiers he had, how
much money he had, and how many wives, Chinese and Russian. (Lin Yutang, Moment in Peking,, 709)
Lin is referring to Zhang Zongchang. He was derogatorily nicknamed as “dog-meat general” because he was gambler
and lover of dog meat. Chinese people eat almost everything including dogs. Yet to foreigners, dog-meat is unthinkable
because they regard them as Man’s Best Friend and keep them as pets. Lin interwove the Chinese image into English,
and the meaning is self-evident in the context although the expression is exotic to the English readers.
(2) Heaven has no eyes! (Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, 23)
Westerners believe that it’s God that controls the world, while the Chinese believe it is the Heaven that cares everything
for them. When Westerners cry out “Oh, my God!” “God Bless you!”, the Chinese exclaim “Oh, my Heaven!” The
exclamation as an example here is typically Chinese, showing the dominating role of Heaven in the life of Chinese.
English Language Teaching
(3) Killing the landscape appears in Moment in Peking, and is literally translated by Lin from sha fengjing, although an
English idiom“a wet blanket”denotes the same meaning. This purposeful choice of words shows Lin’s effort to
communicate Chinese culture to the West, and his effort to maintain his Chinese identity.
(4) Does he mean to throw the city editor and break his rice-bowl, starving all the people dependent on him? (My
Country and My People, 170)
Rice-bowl is a literal translation of fan wan, the meaning of which is expressed figuratively in English is “bread and
butter”. Both are used metaphorically to mean “the means of livelihood” yet manifest different cultures.
From what’s stated above, we can see that the speakers with Chinese linguistic and cultural identities are consciously or
unconsciously transferring Chinese cultural identities into English, thus endowing China English with distinctive
cultural identities. Meanwhile, China English functions as a cohesive device in consolidating its speakers’ cultural
identity in intercultural communication. As Claire Kramsch declares that “there is a natural connection between the
language spoken by members of a social group and that group’s identity. By the accent, their vocabulary, their discourse
patterns, speakers identify themselves and are identified as members of this or that speech and discourse community.
From this membership, they draw personal strength and pride, as well as a sense of importance and historical continuity
from using the same language as the group they belong to”.(Kramsch, 1998: 65-66)
3.3 China English in International Community of English
China English is gaining increasing recognition in international community of English and frequently find their way in
the circle of English as a Native Language ( ENL). Examples are as follows:
(1) These colonies are constant and even increasing drain on France. They are for her the tiger which she has mounted
(to use the Chinese phrase) and she can neither manage nor get rid of. (Time, November 10, 1989)
The Chinese phrase is used metaphorically for a dilemma situation, the equivalent of which in English is “to be on the
horns of a dilemma” or “to have a wolf by the ear”. However, the use of the Chinese idiom would produce exotic color
to English, which would arouse the interest of the readers and would help them gain a kind of strange, but rewarding
reading experience, and learn something about Chinese culture.
(2) So allow me to begin by using a Chinese expression—and you will have to forgive my pronunciation —pao zhuan
yin yu—to throw a brick to retrieve a jade —and try to explain American perceptions about our hopes and dreams for
the future. (Speech by US Vice President Gore at Tsinghua University, March 26, 1997)
The purpose of having the Chinese borrowings in the speeches of political leaders is to shorten the distance between the
speakers and the audience by showing their respect to the Chinese language and culture. Of course, this is a diplomatic
strategy or tactic to appeal to the audience, nevertheless it suggests the transfer of Chinese culture into English. In the
repertoire of loan words in English, we find Chinese loan words showing that China English enriches the language of
English. They include food, medicine, plant, traditional arts and sports, political expressions and terms etc. A recent
report says that there are altogether 1488 Chinese loan words in English (Wang , 2002:391). As language changes with
society, such number is bound to mount. As language is the embodiment of culture, China English words also makes a
great contribution in promoting Chinese culture. A convincing example is seen from former US President Ronald
Reagan who quoted from Daodejing in his State of the Union Address: “To govern a great nation requires the same care
as to fry a small fish.” With the more frequent cultural exchanges in the globalization era, we’re justified in predicting
that China English will be playing an increasingly important role in cross-cultural communication and gain an
increasingly recognition in the international community of English.
4. China English in ELT for English majors
The idea that English has become Englishes and China English is an objective existence has been recognized by most
scholars in the field of foreign language teaching and research as stated above. Meanwhile, questions are likely to occur
and are thought-provoking to teachers of English majors. For example, how should we view cultural teaching while
teaching language? Should we teach one culture at the sacrifice of another? What influences will it bring to language
planning and curriculum design? How should they, as non-native speakers of English, treat different varieties of English
in their teaching? Which variety is considered as the “standard English” for students, British or American, or something
The answer to the first question has already been unanimously agreed. Language is part of culture and provides a key to
unlocking the heart of a culture. Therefore, learning another language is inseparable from learning another culture. As a
matter of fact, China English is the very product of the nativization of English in the globalization era, and a product of
the communication and integration between Chinese and Western cultures. English should not only be used for learning
British or American cultural patterns, but also for promoting Chinese traditions, customs and values internationally. As
to students, they are expected to be both bilingual and bicultural (although the latter seems more difficult). English
should be an instrument for expressing Chinese culture as well as cultures of English-speaking countries. Therefore, in
Vol. 1, No. 2
English Language Teaching
curriculum design, an appropriate portion should be given to Chinese culture teaching in English. Currently, however,
few universities have incorporated that into their course design. My survey on courses taught for English majors at the
three universities in Yantai including Yantai University, Ludong University, and Shandong Institute of Business and
Technology indicates that cultural teaching is generally Western culture -oriented and courses taught include British
Culture and Society , American Culture and Society, A General Survey of Britain and USA.
Another question that teachers should consider is: What is standard English? What kind of English should we teach to
students? Nowadays, the monolithic situation in which British English or American English is the sole standard has
been broken and what follows is the varieties of English or the pluralistic Englishes such as British English, American
English, Australian English, Canadian English, etc, and more should be added to the list including China English in
view of Kachru’s theory of concentric circle. Their cultural and linguistic characteristics should be part of teaching
objectives. Students should be exposed to various varieties of English through diverse channels and teaching activities.
The Globalization and nativization of English will inevitably influence English teaching and call for reform of it.
Teachers have to adapt themselves to the changing situations, accept new ideas and adopt new methods.
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Kachru, B.B. (1989). Teaching World Englishes . Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics. 15:1.
Kachru, B.B. (ed.). (1982/1992). The Other Tongue: English across Cultures. Urbana and Chicago: University of
Kramsch, Clair. (1989). Language and Culture ]. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Li, Wenzhong. (1993). China English and Chinese-style English. Journal of Foreign Language Teaching and Research
Lin, Yutang. (1999). The Importance of Living. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
Lin, Yutang. (1999). Moment in Peking. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
Liu, Xiangqing. (2005). China English Study and Cultural Teaching for English Majors. Tianjin Foreign Studies
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Pan, Zhangxian. (2005). Linguistics and Cultured Identities in Chinese Varieties of English. Beijing: Peking University
Strang, B. (1970). A History of English. London: Methuen.
Strevens, P. (1982). World English and the World’s Englishes. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts.
Sun, Li. (1989). The Study of Englishes and English in China. Journal of Foreign Languages (2).
Wang, Rongpei. (1991). China English is a reality. Journal of the PLA Institute of Foreign Languages (1).
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