Thursday, April 14, 2011

Some Reflections on Chinglish, Chinese and English

From my observations, Chinese people read and write adequately, but their listening and speaking skills develop more slowly as a result, in part, of their educational system and the tonal and syllabic characteristics of their own language.

Nearly every doctor, engineer, and middle and high school student that I teach is starved for more conversation and opportunities to practice spoken English. They frequently pronounce V like W; have a hard time with R (and forget about rolling an RRRRR, Enrique!). I tell every class that I am Alex and not Alex-tsa. The trailing ah- or tsa-sound gets added to many words by many speakers.

Yesterday, I made a rather surprising discovery. We use a lot of Chinese words in English. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article that lists them. The most fascinating part of the article, though, is not the word list itself, but the etymologist's suggestions about how these words migrated west. Rick Harbaugh's site also has a fascinating wealth of information about a modern language that is anything but new. He manages the site in his free time and delves into all sorts of great questions, like how Chinese words are created.

On a personal note, I am now committed to two lessons a week and several hours with Rosetta Stone.