Politically Incorrect Chinglish

Students I teach are often tested onstage to make sure they have what it takes to be orators. If they tremble onstage in front of the mic, that’s not the end of the word: this is why we have Nobel-grade scientists and world-class TED speakers, both on the same planet!

However, amplified Chinglish should be banned. What’s tricky is they’re everywhere, and they’ve had, as I’ve discovered, a tendency to even get political. Here’s just a selection of the most politically incorrect Chinglish I’ve heard from my students…

“Democracy People’s Republic of Korea”

When discussing issues over north Korea, some used the “official”, long title of the country, which in reality is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Long name, I know. I wish it was all of the above instead of the Kimland that it is today.

But onwards. That’s a grammar mistake. Democracy describes a current state of political affairs, or the attribute of a modern nation-state. The adjective democratic should be used here instead.

“Community Party of China”

This is not a new-born / illegal party in the Middle Kingdom — it’s what students erroneously refer to as the ruling party, the Communist Party. The trouble is — they have a hard time trying to make “community” and “communist” sound different.

It’s also worth pondering how the party’s name is written in English. I favour the verbatim translation, making it the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but I know Beijing’s approved version is a little different — the Communist Party of China (CPC). It’s also a case of how you translate the official name of the country — if it was a verbatim translation, the People’s Republic of China would have become the Chinese People’s Republic. The fact that most Western news outlets use CCP instead of CPC means that when talking about this to Anglophone audiences, for example, they’d be probably more familiar with the CCP than the CPC, although the two are much the same.

“Unit States of America” / “Unit States of American”

They also at times have trouble pronouncing the official country name in the States. Unit States sounds just so wrong — they’d have ideally added the -ed at the very end.

There’s another big problem in Chinglish country names: some of us make little distinction between a country name and its adjective. Hardest hit are Germany – German, Switzerland – Swiss as well as that impossibly-hard-to-understand trio — United Kingdom / Great Britain / England. If they’re not referring it in Chinglish to Englishland or English, they’re assuming “UK = England”, which would make those of us in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland look at those poor, innocent students funny.

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