Language exists for the purpose of facilitating communication. Without it we can generally get our point across, but it can be a tedious and laborious process.
Even with language communication can be challenging at best. In the end language is just a collection of sounds and symbols that are subject to interpretation. And that, of course, makes it personal. Which, in turn, means we are inclined to have our own take, colored by our own biases, on what it is that is being communicated
Now factor in the fact that the two people communicating, whether the author/reader or speaker/listener, write and speak two different languages with no common etymology and you begin to understand the challenge native English-speakers have in getting through the average day in China.
Many native English-speakers, of course, can speak Chinese to varying degrees. And vice-versa. English is a standard subject in Chinese schools and many Chinese, particularly young people, speak English fluently enough to pass the state exam for English fluency.
Fluency, however, doesn’t always translate into understanding. How could it? Just think about how much miscommunication there is between native English-speakers and you begin to appreciate the enormity of the challenge.
The result can be frustrating, if not maddening. The person you are communicating with appears to understand and responds with all of the appropriate words. In the end, however, you conclude that they have no idea what you are actually trying to say.
That, at least, is benign miscommunication. The more common variety of miscommunication here is unaware miscommunication. All of the right words have been exchanged. Levers have been pulled and wheels put in motion. And what happens is not at all what you’re expecting. A good percentage of the time, in fact, it is diametrically opposed.
And then there are the lighter facets of bi-lingual communication. It has given rise to yet a third language – the language of Chinglish. This is the language spoken by native Chinese-speakers who are fluent, to varying degrees, in English. But they sometimes miss the mark; understandably so.
Chinglish can involve a misspelling or a simple misuse of a particular word. Often, however, it is technically correct, but occurs simply because few words can be directly translated between one language and the other.
Copyright © 2013 Glassmaker in China
Notice: The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity. They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.