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Academic Paper

Title: China's English mystery – the views of a China ‘foreign expert’
Author: Martin Wolff
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Xinyang Agricultural College
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Chinese, Mandarin
Abstract: 'The mysteries of exotic China arise not only from its voluntary isolation from the modern world during some of the most formative and progressive decades, but from an inability or unwillingness of the west to understand Chinese logic and thinking. The west views China with western eyes and judges China according to western standards. The west asks some seriously ignorant questions about China, such as: What is the culture of China? What do the people of China think? What do the people of China eat?
To fully comprehend the absurdity of these questions, simply invert them, as Chinese college students regularly do in their English classes that are taught by foreigners: How is the culture of America? How do the people of America think? How do the people of America eat? Each populace assumes that the other is a mono-culture. This thinking also carries over into the area of lingua franca. The west assumes that all Chinese people speak Mandarin or Cantonese and have a common written language. China actually teaches that one must learn ‘Standard British English’ or ‘Standard American English’ or ‘Standard International English.’ In addition to Mandarin and Cantonese, China has 55 minority languages and an uncounted number of localized dialects such as Shanghainese, Wuhanese, and many others. There are at least three written Chinese languages, not just one, for example, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and pinyin.


This article appears IN English Today Vol. 26, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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