Sunday, 26 December 2010

China bans foreign words

China is concerned about creeping English.
Chinese authorities have banned the use of foreign words and phrases – especially English – in Chinese newspapers, books and websites.

The ban, reported Wednesday, was issued by the General Administration of Press and Publication, the governing body for written publications. It says the increasing use of English and half-English phrases is damaging the purity of the Chinese language and disrupting the nation's "harmonious and healthy cultural environment."
No language is pure -- all languages change over time, and every language is influenced to some extent by other languages. This is a futile attempt to stop language change, and probably to promote a standard variety of Chinese.

China's not alone -- other countries have taken action from time to time to prevent the borrowing of English words. (Which is fine -- we have something of a trade surplus going at the moment.) Other countries include Iran -- remember 'elastic loaves'?

And, of course, France, which has been trying to replace the stubborn 'e-mail' with the more Frenchy 'courriel' for years. Doesn't seem to be taking, though -- Google gives me a lot more hits for "email" than it does for "courriel" on French pages. (Though interestingly the situation is reversed for the more formal "votre courriel" v "votre email". Could this be a formality thing?)

Anyway, I think China is going to find that while this law may hide English from view, it will do little to stop the borrowing of English words.


  1. China is just the control freak of the family. This seems desperate. And futile.

  2. China's just jealous because people don't randomly kowtow to China's culture by using Chinese words in English.

  3. my irony tag didn't show. I am disappoint.

  4. We're clearly trying to shanghai Chinese.


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