International Journal of Language and Linguistics
Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2015, Pages: 275-284

Chinglish in College English Writing: Problem Analysis and Solutions

Li Fengjie, Zhang Yingying

Foreign Languages Department, School of Humanities, Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, Tianjin, China

Email address:

(Li Fengjie)

To cite this article:

Li Fengjie, Zhang Yingying. Chinglish in College English Writing: Problem Analysis and Solutions.International Journal of Language and Linguistics. Vol. 3, No. 5, 2015, pp. 275-284. doi: 10.11648/j.ijll.20150305.11

Abstract: For Chinese college students, writing is a pretty weak point of learning English, which was typically embodied by the Chinglish that appears frequently in English compositions. The thesis aims to analyze the specific examples of the Chinglish based on the writing assignment by Chinese college students. Furthermore, the solutions and strategies of correcting the Chinglish in English writing are put forward.

Keywords: College English Writing, Analysis of Chinglish, Solutions

1. Introduction

Chinglish is an inter-lingual error and reflects the phenomenon that the Chinese who are learning English are being influenced by the Chinese language when it comes to speaking or writing in English. Based on the fact that students always adopt their mother tongues’ thinking patterns in the initial stage of learning, instead of thinking in the ways of foreign languages, they can be easily influenced by their mother tongues. During the process of learning and using foreign languages, arbitrarily applying Chinese rules and habits will result in the inadequate sentences and passages or the twisted English that violates the English cultural backgrounds. Strictly speaking, Chinglish is a kind of interfering language variants applied in the inter-cultural communication, and this interference exists in nearly every aspect of words, including not only the words themselves, but in thoughts and cultures as well. In conclusion, Chinglish is the "unnatural English" being affected by the Chinese verbal patterns and thinking patterns. This phenomenon can be mostly performed by the beginners and those who can hardly learn English pretty well.

2. Error Analysis

According to Sridhar (1981), Error Analysis has a long tradition. Back to the early 1970s, however, Error Analysis was mainly about impressionistic collections of ‘common’ errors and their linguistic classification. The goals of traditional Error Analysis were pedagogic--errors providing information which could be used to sequence items for teaching or to devise remedial lessons. The resurgence of interest in Error Analysis took place in the late 1960s. A series of articles by Corder both traced this resurgence and helped to give it direction (Rod, 1985).

According to Corder (1971), the procedure for the Error Analysis is as follows. 1) A corpus of language is selected. This involves deciding on the size of the sample, the medium to be sampled, and the homogeneity of the sample. 2) The errors in the corpus are identified. Corder (1971) points out the need to distinguish "lapses" (i.e. deviant sentences that are the result of processing limitations rather than lack of competence) from "errors" (i.e. deviant sentences that are the result of lack of competence). He also points out that sentences can be "overtly idiosyncratic" (i.e. sentences that are superficially well formed but when their context of use is examined are clearly ungrammatical). 3) The errors are classified. This involves assigning a grammatical description to each other. 4) The errors are explained. In this stage of the procedure an attempt is made to identify the psycholinguistic cause of the errors. 5) The errors are explained. This stage involves the assessing the seriousness of each error in order to take principled teaching decisions. Error analysis is only necessary if the purpose of Error Analysis is pedagogic. It is redundant if the Error Analysis is conducted in order to study SLA (Rod, 1985).

The context for the new interest in errors was the recognition that they provided information about the process of acquisition. Error Analysis provides two kinds of information about inter-language. The first concerns the linguistic type of errors produced by L2 learners. While the second type of information concerns the psycholinguistic type of errors produced by L2 learners. Richards(1974) identifies various strategies associated with developmental errors, such as overgeneralization, ignorance of rule restrictions, incomplete application of rules and false concepts hypothesized. Perhaps the most ambitious attempt to explain SLA by analyzing the psycholinguistic origins of errors is to be found in George(1972). He argues that errors derive from the learner’s need to exploit the redundancy of language by omitting elements that are non-essential for the communication of meaning. Implicit in the types of analysis provided by both Richards and George is the assumption that at least some of the causes are universal. Error Analysis can be used to investigate the various processes that contribute to the interlanguage development (Rod, 1985).

3. Analysis of Chinglish Patterns on Lexical Level

Chinglish, as an inevitable problem emerged in nearly everywhere of Chinese students’ writings has various causes. In the following section, the author will elaborate the different reflections of Chinglish from two aspects, errors and defects. Each of the sections is consisted of different reasons, wording, sentence structures, collocation, cultures, mind-sets, etc. And the examples of the analysis are all from the following corpus.

The corpus for this thesis was collected from the 18 students of one Experimental Class in Tianjin University of Finance and Economics in China. In the first term in the school year 2013 to 2014, each of the 18 students wrote 8 compositions based on seven different ways of developing a paragraph. The topics for the compositions were: 1) How to Prepare for a Picnic at the Weekend (development by process); 2) I Have Had a Happy School Life (development by time); 3) My Campus (development by space); 4) My Friends (development by classification); 5) Noise Pollution in the City Where I Live (development by example); 6) Over Development of Big Cities (development by cause and effect); 7) Popularity of Tours to Forests and Mountains (development by cause and effect); 8) Television and Cinema (development by comparison and contrast). For the convenience of error analysis, the author numbers the 18 students from X1 to X18, and the 8 compositions from P1 to P8 in accordance with the sequence above.

This part illustrates the Chinglish errors from misunderstanding in wording in the following four aspects, redundant words, pseudo-equivalence, cross-linguistic "polysemy" and paraphrase in an effort to deal with the issue "Why did the student commit this error?".

3.1. Lexical Semantics

According to the Swiss linguist Ferdinand De Saussure (1916), the value of a lexical individual exits regarding its association with other words. As far as semantic connections among words are concerned, Saussure also presents the difference between paradigmatic relations and syntagmatic relations. The paradigmatic relations refer to those into which a linguistic unit joins in being contrasted or substitutable, in a particular environment, with other similar units. Syntagmatic relations are those that a unit contrasts by virtue of its co-occurrence with similar units. So, for example, the meaning of a phrase like "a green jacket" is partly produced by the syntagmatic combination of "green" and "jacket", which "green" also exists in a paradigmatic relationship with words which belong to the same category, like "grey, brown, yellow", etc.

In other words, the paradigmatic relations of lexical items perform the classification and generalization of items and life experiences by human cognition. The relations reflect the assembly of lexical items all basically belonging to a certain field or activity, which can also form a particular lexical field or semantic field. For example, the word "red" can also remind us of the intimate connection with other words like "red, purple, pink, yellow" and other words in the circle of colors. There are several types of lexical relations in a semantic field, homonymy, polysemy, synonymy, hyponymy, metonymy, etc.

Syntagmatic relations basically refer to the co-occurrence connections, that is, words of different sets or categories may allow, or demand, the occurrence of a word of another set to form a complete sentence or a particular part of the sentence. Firth, a British linguist once put forward that "you shall know a word by the company it keeps"(1957). That is to say, you can always expect that words like "foul, field, assist, cheer-leaders, coach, tactical layout" in a basketball competition. From Firth’s perspective, this lexical company, which he calls collocation, is also part of the meaning of a word. In short, Firth’s collocation theory stresses the semantic compatibility between words. For Chomsky (1965), in both circumstances, the feature of the predicates indicates the environment or surroundings in which they occur.

3.2. Redundant Words

Within the expression of Chinese, the syllable and the rhythm are significant in phrase-making and sentence-making. There are many situation in which there exists the repetition of words on semantic level, such as disyllable and four-syllabled words, positive and negative foil, parallel structures, etc. They can act as pleasant rhetorical devices for Chinese people. However, this repetition coming from Chinese syllable and rhythm violates the principle of conciseness in an English composition. The examples below will furnish a good illustration.

E.g. (X1p3). In this day and age, tours to forests and mountains are gaining popularity among most tourists.

In this sentence, it seems that the expression of "day and age" is quite a decent expression. However, "day and age" posses the identical semantic meaning, which result in the repetition of lexical items. However, this derives from the Chinese rhythm and expression habits in which "day and age" can be quite a pleasant expression. Nevertheless, it can be a violation of the principle of simplicity and conciseness, i.e., the redundant words. The following version would be much better.

In this age, tours to forests and mountains are gaining popularity among most tourists.

E.g. (X12p5). I’m good at painting pictures and he’s good at reading books.

This example can act as a stereotype of the redundant words which are affected by Chinese syllable and thinking patterns. Although the Chinese object "hua" and "shu" in the phrases "huahua" and "dushu" are indispensable for Chinese people, the two words "pictures" and "books" are just redundant in an English composition. To analyze the exact reason, the exact meaning of "read" is to acquire the meaning of books, magazines and other written or printed characters while the exact meaning of "paint" is to form a picture with paints. That is to say the entire semantic meaning of "huahua" and "dushu" can be perfectly contained merely in the word "paint" and "read".

In conclusion, owing to the distinction in the thinking pattern as well as in the patterns of expressions between English and Chinese, a word that is essential in the expression of one’s mother tongue can be a redundant unit in the target language. The mechanical transplant of the patterns of expression of mother tongue is always inappropriate, since communicating in another foreign language or expressing the identical meaning in the target language is never a word-by-word undertaking. Thus, the primary step to avoid Chinglish is to get rid of unnecessary repetition from the mother tongue’s interference. Practically speaking, when college students write compositions, these redundant words are supposed to be eliminated in order to follow the English utilization. One well-formed expression to the above example should be as follows.

I’m good at painting and he’s(good at) reading.

Here is another sentence,

E.g. (X2p4). In the public, people should pay more attention on their behavior such as speaking voice and laughter.

The example offers a great explanation of redundant words in Chinglish. What the student wanted to argue about was that "based on the increasing severity of noise pollution, we should be careful with some trivial behaviors, such as speaking or laughing, which might bother other people under particular circumstance". However, the student used the phrase "speaking voice". Obviously, he wants to express the meaning of "speaking aloud", so he added "voice" after "speaking". However, as we all know, "speaking" alone would make a perfect sense, "voice" here can be redundant. Traced back the reason of that, the student is unconsciously influenced by Chinese expression habits, in which "shuohua" "shuochusheng" are two phrases with different semantic meanings. One well-formed expression to the above example should be as follows.

On a public occasion, people should pay more attention to their behavior, such as speaking and laughing.

3.3. Pseudo-Equivalence

As mentioned above, the assembly of words that belong to a circle of particular knowledge constitutes a particular lexical field. Although alongside with the development of globalization and more intimate relationship among various languages, there are observations and research still showing that languages can be quite different according to the variation of experiences. Again, take the color items as example, there are literally eleven main color words in English; however, there are only four basic color items in some local or ancient languages. That shows words in the same semantic field are closely associated with neighbors. Thus, we can say that even we have the equivalent words in different languages, it may not embody the identical value. Hence we might be able to make the prediction that the exact reason for pseudo-equivalence is that students mix up the corresponding words which are embedded with different values in their own languages. The example below will be a good illustration.

E.g. (X4p7). People have both time and money to enjoy the contact with the nature.

In this sentence, "contact" in English has different values from "jiechu" in Chinese because English also has such synonymous words, phrases or expressions as "touch, exposure, engagement" etc. In other words, the field of "contact" is divided among four words (or more, of course, in actual fact). Chinese do "jiechuren, jiechushehui, jiechugongzuo, jiechuhuanjing" with one lexical term "jiechu" which the English native speakers will choose one of the several words in accordance with its environment. However, for Chinese students, the word "exposure" is absent in their inter-language system, and its "content" goes to one of the other several verbs (in this example, contact). One well-formed expression to the above example should be as follows.

People have both time and money to enjoy the exposure to the nature.

To conclude, Chinese students tend to apply Chinese usage for reference. They will ignore the variation of the values of the equivalent lexical terms in different languages. As a matter of fact, except for several nouns, there is basically no literal equality of meaning between Chinese and English lexical items. This is the reason why the Chinese students often feel confused when it comes to the selection from a particular semantic field. Therefore, students are suggested to take advantage of contexts to learn the entire system of relations that a word has, not that he/she can master every detail of the system, just that he/she can absorb enough information for the words to become a little more convincing and meaningful than they were before.

3.4. Cross-linguistic "Polysemy"

According to Introduction to Linguistics, a course we attended during the first semester of junior year, polysemy can be defined as "the term used in semantic analysis to refer to a lexical item which has a wide range of different meanings". Just take a simple look at the dictionary, it will give an idea how frequent polysemy is. It reflects a phenomenon that the meaning of a lexical item in Chinese might be included or contained in the meaning of its teaching equivalence. Thus, the cross-linguistic polysemy can be regarded as this semantic inclusion between lexical items of different languages. It might be quite easy for Chinese students to memorize the central and primary meaning of a lexical item, but not the subordinate and minor meanings. Consequently, students stick to the misunderstanding of mechanically transplanting the corresponding Chinese items to make up their inadequacies.

Chinese students tend to widen the meanings of an English lexical item based on the following Chinese usage, which result in the inappropriateness and error. Further examples are as follows.

E.g. (X8p6). All that are the outlook of east campus.

Despite the obvious grammatical mistakes in the former part of the sentence, what seriously needs to pay more attention to is the misuse of "outlook". In that sentence, the student is actually trying to give a summative comment on the content above, so he wants to express the Chinese meaning of "fengjing", "zhengtiguihua". In some materials, the Chinese word "jingse" is indeed the equivalent of English word "outlook", so some Chinese students are under the mistaken impression that all the senses of "jingse" are correspondent with "outlook", which leads to that Chinglish sentence. Actually, "outlook" is much more related to one’s future prospect or one’s attitude and view towards something. Here, "landscape, scene, view" can be more appropriate.

In conclusion, the ability of one lexical item to contribute several meanings is one of the main characteristics of human language. As a matter of fact, the commoner the word, the more meanings it has. The key issue of cross-linguistic "polysemy" lies in the fact that wording needs to be as accurate as possible and closely attached to the circumstance it can be used. One well-formed expression to the above example should be as follows.

All these are the landscape of the eastern campus.

3.5. Paraphrase

Paraphrase is a common learning strategy when Chinese students are dealing with the communication for which they lack specific linguistic knowledge. Under this circumstance, the Chinese students may attempt to get around the problem by applying a concept indirectly to achieve the original goal. Take the following sentence as an example,

E.g. (X4p7). After my grandmother’s death, my grandfather lived 5 years.

At first glance, this Chinglish sentence reads fluent and follows the Chinese ways of thinking and Chinese expression patterns; however, for native speakers, they are a circumlocution and might be regarded as Chinese implicit saying. That results from the fact that students can’t master some English words with special connotations. In English, "survive" has two meaning—"to continue to live after" and "to live or exist longer than". However, the student doesn’t know the complete and clear meaning of this word, avoidance and paraphrase appear. One well-formed expression to the above example should be as follows.

My grandfather survived his wife by five years.

Here is another example.

E.g. (X1p1). You should prepare some food that is easy to carry and not easy to get bad.

The example offers a perfect illustration of the paraphrase in Chinglish writing. As most of the sentences with paraphrase problem, they are grammatically right. However, since they severely lack specific and concise vocabulary, they can only resort to paraphrase. In this case, "easy to carry" and "not easy to get bad" are both the paraphrase of the Chinese meaning "qingbiande" and "buyifulande", while there are two exact English words for this semantic meaning, "light" and "nonperishable". A revised version would be as follows.

You should prepare some light and nonperishable food.

In a nutshell, the paraphrase that appeared in students’ writing is basically derived from the lack of complete comprehension of words or lack of accumulation of vocabulary, i.e., the communicative demands of the second language far outpace the students’ actual language competence. To a certain extent, the paraphrase may be considered as a positive communication strategy applied by the students to avoid the inadequacy of his interlanguage. But paraphrase may also indicate the impossibility to learn more complex sentence structures because the students find out they can achieve the same communicative effect by using much simpler patterns. Therefore, students must be more aware of the importance of accumulating more and more vocabulary and exploring more thorough meanings of words.

4. Analysis of Chinglish Patterns on the Level of Sentence Structures

Each language has its own nature. One must respect and follow its natures to communicate effectively and smoothly. Regarding structures, the students should always be prepared to express the idea in the quite different sentence structures of the target language. Hence, in this part, the features of sentence structures of English and Chinese will be summarized. Then, based on the differences of English and Chinese sentence structures, several categories of Chinglish errors will be described so as to reach an solution to minimize Chinglish.

4.1. The Grammatical Features of English and Chinese

There is a grammatical feature of English and Chinese in nature--Chinese grammar is characterized by flexibility while English by rigidity. Literally speaking, flexibility is the equivalent to elasticity. Obviously, if a thing is elastic, it can be condensed, expanded, lengthened or shortened. Rigidity means the lack of flexibility. Each part of the sentence equally matters and nothing can be deleted wherever necessary. Furthermore, flexibility and rigidity are relative. It is true that English grammar presents much rigidity, but it does not follow that it has no flexibility; it is true that Chinese grammar demonstrates great flexibility, but it does not follow that it is not restricted and well-mannered.

That nothing can be neglected is one reflection of rigidity of English grammar. Primarily, grammatical rules should be followed wherever necessary in patterns such as the agreement in persons, tenses, number, etc. Secondly, grammatical rules should also be obeyed in morphological sense. For example, the following example offers an illustration of subject-verb disagreement.

E.g. (X12p5) Economy globalize make people realize that the world is becoming closer.

The problems of subject-verb disagreement appear most frequently in Chinese students’ compositions. In Chinese, there are no strict requirements regarding the numeral relationship between subjects and verbs and there are no changes for verbs in accordance with the third person singular form. Therefore, there is no need for predicates to have any adjustments or changes according to subjects. Furthermore, there are no roots, affixes and derivation in Chinese. Thus, that exactly reflects the relative flexibility of Chinese and relative rigidity of English. A revised version would be as follows.

Economy globalization makes people realize that the world is becoming closer.

The distinction between flexibility of Chinese grammar and rigidity of English grammar illustrates the Chinglish errors of redundant words mentioned in Part Three. Syllable and rhythm of Chinese grammar make abundant disyllabic words "huahuadushu" etc.

4.2. Features of Sentence Structures of English and Chinese

After the grammatical features of English and Chinese are discussed, the sentence structures of English and Chinese will be dealt with here. Lots of scholars have studied the sentence-making features of English and Chinese.

From what those great linguists have studied and learned, a conclusion can be drawn that Chinese sentences and English sentences are quite different in structures. The basic differences of features of sentence structures of Chinese and English are as follows.

First, English sentences are connected by hypotaxis while Chinese ones by parataxis.

To give further illustration, in an English sentence, the subject and the predicate are acting as the trunk. We may add other parts like clauses, coordinative constructions, modifiers or phrases. The extension of English sentences is based on the basic frame: subject + predicate. However, for Chinese, the sentence structures are relatively loose and the layout of the sentence’ constituents is regarding the coherence of semantic meaning so that the Chinese sentences are more "flat" than those in English. That is also why the connectives in Chinese are not quite common; instead, the verbs are used much more frequently than in English.

E.g. (X13p5) Although we took many actions, but we still failed to solve the problem.

Hypotaxis generally exists in English; however, it manifests itself otherwise in Chinese. The main performance of hypotaxis is the frequent presence of conjunctions and prepositions in English, which results in the mistake in the above sentence. The misuse of conjunctions can be quite self-evident regarding the difference of hypotaxis and parataxis. Here is the recommended version.

Although we took many actions, we still failed to solve the problem.

Second, English is a static language while Chinese a dynamic language.

English grammar is clearer and more explicit than Chinese and verbs have many morphological variations. That is to say, in English, apart from verbs, other components such as adverbs, prepositions, etc. can also act as means to express an action.

On the contrary, Chinese grammar is implicit and verbs have no morphological variations. That is to say, the devices other than verbs, such as prepositions, nonfinite verbs etc. barely have any changes, which result in the fact that the correctness of sentences is accounted for by the word order and word order is accounted for by the position of every verb in a sentence. Thus, the variation or changes of devices may otherwise ruin the sentence structure of Chinese.

E.g. (X17p2) The world is greatly influenced by global warming. This cannot be avoided. The sea level is rising gradually.

The difference between the static characteristics and dynamic characteristics is also responsible for another problem--the overuse of verbs. As what has been explained above, the dynamic characteristics of Chinese results in the more frequent presence of verbs (every action is specifically illustrated by the "predicate + noun" structures). The above example has failed to take notice of the static quality of English. The recommended version as follows can help us realize the existence of the static property of English in which each action can be described or transformed (with the assistance of gerunds or adjectives) into more of a status, instead of a simple action. Moreover, this can also fix the presence of the overuse of verbs.

The world being greatly influenced by global warming, it’s inevitable that the sea level is rising gradually.

4.3. Loose Sentences

As mentioned above, all the components in English sentence structures are connected by hypotaxis. Various devices are applied to connect words, phrases and other expressions in English sentences. In contrast, words, phrases, expressions are always connected by parataxis in Chinese sentence structure. That it to say, Chinese sentences are structured in a quite unconsolidated manner.

Loose sentences are pretty common in Chinese college students’ writings. This can basically attribute to the fact that they often fail to take notice of the differences between English and Chinese and neglect the use of connectives and cohesive devices. Let’s take a look at the following example.

E.g. (X3p7) If you have spare time, you can sit around the lake. It’s a really good choice.

The sentence comes from the composition titled Our Campus. When it comes to the description of the lake, the student presented that very sentence. The sentence read fluent and is in accordance with the Chinese thinking patterns and most importantly, grammatically appropriate. However, to be honest, the native speakers wouldn’t appreciate this expression very much since the native English speakers pay most of their attention to the main message of the sentence structure, instead of the chronological order. Thus, the sentence below would gain more preference.

It’s really a good choice to sit around the lake to spend some spare time.

Here is another example,

E.g. (X3p7) It’s in a rectangular shape and there’re many ducks in it.

The sentence comes from exactly the same composition by the same student. The neglect of connectives and appropriate clauses is the main pitfall of the loose sentence. Undoubtedly, that sentence is also grammatically and semantically right; however, it violates the principle of conciseness of English writing. With the assistance of the attributive clause and appropriate prepositions, that sentence can be more well-developed as follows.

The lake, in which there are many ducks, is in a rectangular shape.

In conclusion, nobody has failed to notice the fact that grammar and word order don’t make a perfect and native sentence. The essence lies in the accumulation of various sentence structures and the acknowledgement of using proper prepositions. English sentences develop themselves on form pivot. English has an abundant collection of cohesive devices to enable the completeness, compactness and conciseness of its sentences. Students are urged to be more aware of the significance and wide utilization of connectives, clauses, prepositions and other cohesive devices. If college students can’t master the proper use of cohesive devices, clumsy sentences with poor coherence can hardly be avoided in English writings.

4.4. Overuse of Verbs

Since English grammar is explicit and English verbs have various morphological variations, in other words, the action can be described by expression, phrases with static patterns, which result in the fact that English is a relatively more static language. Native speakers preferred to express their idea of action in a static manner, instead of showing every action in the original form of verbs.

Implicit manner in Chinese shows that the relations of sentence components are performed by meaning, not by morphology. In other words, nearly all the actions are delivered one after another in the chronological order. Consequently, there are more verbs and fewer nouns and prepositions used in English sentences, which means Chinese is, comparatively speaking, a dynamic language. Here is an appropriate example.

E.g. (X9p4) They came here to assist us, and they did not came to make trouble.

As the very example shows, the coherence of the sentence is accomplished by the cohesion of meaning, not by the assistance of cohesive devices to achieve the syntactic relations. Instead, for English people, the semantic combination is achieved by overt marks. This Chinglish sentence read loose and might be at a loss of the student’ actual intention.

Instead of making trouble, they came here to assist us.

Let’s take a closer look at another example.

E.g. (X14p3) Turn right when you arrived at the corner of the lake, then go straight until the crossroad. Have a short rest and have a view of the most high class teaching building- the "Diamond".

From the above examples, we may find out that it is all about the different uses or the flexible variation of parts of the speech. But as a matter of fact, it shows the special features of either language in their ways of expressions. If the student translates a sentence from the Chinese version directly, the English version will be a loose sentence with a lot of verbs. If the student writes this sentence in an "English pattern", a well-organized sentence in which the main part and the subordination can be arranged at the right place can be produced. And so many verbs can turn into nouns, gerunds, prepositional phrases, etc. This also provides us with a specific plan that may help us eliminate the loose sentence in writing.

A recommended version is as follows.

Taking the first crossing right and the second left, here it comes the highest teaching building, the "Diamond", where you can appreciate the wonderful view while having a break.

5. Analysis of Chinglish Patterns on Cultural Level

Language, as the essence of human culture, does not come from the void. Each language represents a specific culture and in return, culture will also give language with its unique and inherent grammatical, lexical, semantic contents. Merely focusing on the correspondence of words, expressions and sentence structures may cause the loss of cultural messages.

5.1. Language and Culture

As means of communicating and exchanging information and experience with each other in our daily life, language is the best reflection of our living environment. With such experience, there’s no way that we can understand our language both literally and culturally.

Early anthropologists, following the theory that words determine thought, believed that language is entirely dependent on the cultural context in which they existed. It also considered human mind as a mechanism which is capable of absorbing any kind of culture contents.

Language is never an entity which has been invented in isolation. Alongside with the development of culture and society, language can gain gradual improvement and changes as well. Culture, as a whole system, includes human sentiments, ways of expression and even social behaviors. In order to keep pace with the development of society, language also keeps furnishing itself with brand-new words, phrases and particular expressions, such as in Chinese "geili", "shangbuqi", etc. It has been adjusted with each new finding, getting hooked up constantly to get its flawless shape with cultures.

5.2. Culture-loaded Words

Based on the interaction and intimate relationship between languages and cultures, the utilization of words and phrases may also be hooked up to their cultural background. The speakers of different linguistic surroundings may have different meanings to exchange within the same semantic field based on their social communities, cultural backgrounds and geographical locations. Thus, the words that conclude a certain field may differ from language to language, even the equivalent words that seem to embody the same meaning may contain different connotative meanings. In other words, each word in different cultural backgrounds is equipped with unique semantic meaning related with culture. Take the following example as explanation.

E.g. (X12p5) I was expected to become a dragon after college experience.

The equivalent words may be embedded with different associations and connotations among people with distinctive cultural backgrounds, which accounts for the appearance of Chinglish sentences. Based on Chinese culture, "Dragon" is the representation of "royal" and "noble"; nevertheless, it means "evil" and "troublesome" in English culture. For English native speakers, it would be unbelievable that someone are willing to become a dragon. But it is undoubtedly quite an encouraging and fine saying in Chinese as a great expectation towards somebody, especially young generations. One well-formed version to the above example may be as follows.

I was expected to become somebody after college experience.

This reminds of that when we are learning English vocabulary, not only do we need to master the grammatical usage of the sentence, but we should dig into its referential and social meanings as well. Once college students can gain the awareness and better understanding of the significance of cultural background during vocabulary learning, they are sure to automatically make great improvement in their writing.

5.3. Culture and Idiomatic Expressions

There are many idiomatic expressions in English like proverbs, maxims, sayings, etc. Just like Chinese proverbs, English proverbs and other idiomatic expressions are connotative with its referential background and cultural background. Indeed, many Chinese expressions are equivalent to its English correspondence, for example, the English idiom "look before you leap" means in Chinese "sansierhouxing"; "throw cold water on" means in Chinese "polengshui" etc. They not only share the same semantic meaning, but share the identical figures of speech as well.

E.g. (X6p3) Since junior high school, he is as strong as an ox.

This is a stereotype of Chinese idioms. However, in an English context, "ox" has to be replaced with "horse". Because in Chinese, "horse" are identified as the image of hard work and diligence. But in English, most of the expressions are related to "horse". One well-formed version to the above example may be as follows.

Since junior high school, he is as strong as a horse.

From the above, the different cultural characters can produce different linguistic features. In order to reserve the original form and connotation of the expression in the target language, it’s quite important for students to master the cultural differences between different languages.

6. Solutions to Cope with Chinglish

6.1. For Students: Measures to Avoid Chinglish in Writing

6.1.1. Imitations of Native Writings

Under the traditional approaches in English language teaching we emphasize that imitation is one of the most effective and helpful ways for students to learn to write. As a matter of fact, imitation is definitely not something to be ashamed of. Language is acquired mainly through imitation. Thus, in the process of imitation, EFL learners are able to learn useful and important accepted expressions, such as idioms and phrases. This is exactly what the traditional Chinese writing methods require students to do. Particularly, the accumulation of more native and natural expressions is the essence and basic foundation to deal with the Chinglish in English writings. The immersion of more natural and native language environment can potentially remove the bad habits and Chinese thinking patterns of students. Furthermore, students can establish a well-formed language sense, which can not only improve English writing, but elevate the complete English level in the long shot. To conclude, through imitation, students can not only acquire typical sentences and paragraphs from typical texts, but also get the writers’ elegant style and inspiration. So, to some extent, imitation is quite a suggestive and effective form of practice that students can follow certain samples to avoid Chinglish expression.

6.1.2. Practice Making Perfect

Nobody has failed to notice the fact that practice is always the key element of success regarding various events.

In order to learn to write, the students are primarily supposed to be actively exposed themselves to massive amounts of practice. Without being actually involved in the writing process and going through the process again and again, one will never seriously master it. And students can just acquire the necessary strategies of rehearsing, drafting and revising by going through the whole course.

In conclusion, what is beyond dispute is that students can learn to write much better by being actually participating in the writing practices, by writing something meaningful, and by writing in a more objective perspective. If one can stick to this way year by year, his/her writing competence can definitely gain overwhelming improvement.

6.1.3. Focusing on the Comprehensive English Abilities

Listening, speaking, reading and writing are always closely attached to one another. Among these four parts of English skills, the improvement and proficiency of each one of them can be a great benefit to the rest.

There is a saying like this, "Listening and speaking are inseparable." Indeed, when it comes to the learning and acquisition of language, speaking is considered as the final purpose. However, speaking in a fluent and fine foreign language can be only accomplished on the basis of good listening. Communication is a two-way course. Only if one can understand others pretty well, can he/she express his/her own ideas and thinking in the right and appropriate manner. The same goes to writing as well, the other three skills can also improve one’s writing. For example, if we practice oral English a lot, a better language sense can be established, which is even more obvious than practicing writing, since oral English practice enables us to have more opportunities to get in touch with the most native form of language. Through applying different forms of thinking patterns and expressions during conversations, one can potentially transfer these materials into one’s own knowledge and finally, directly benefit one’s writing skills.

6.1.4. Mastering the Knowledge of Culture and Mind-sets

From the above analysis, it is clear that errors in writing are closely related to the elements of culture and mind-sets. So the input of culture backgrounds and modes of thinking are very important, which can be taught separately as a subject or involved in the process of English class. Students can check out some articles and books which enclose a great variety of culture themes and topics (e.g. family, tourism, sports, history, entertainment, social problems, etc.), analyze the different cultures and mind-sets, and make a comparison between Chinglish and Standard English. Creating an atmosphere of practicing English, such as listening to English radio programs, watching TV programs, surfing on the Internet, or taking part in English Corner or other extracurricular activities in English is a perfect way to understand cultures of English-speaking nations and stimulate students’ enthusiasm to think in English ways.

6.2. For Professors: Teaching Strategies to Redress Chinglish

According to cognitive language theory, errors presented in the language is no longer considered as a negative element; instead, they are considered only as a verification technique that students use to verify the supposition during language learning. Thus, professors should, under certain circumstances, analyze the writing errors and shortcomings of students’ writings, which can improve or elevate the quality of both teaching and learning during the process of exploring the solutions to problems. The writing errors and shortcomings that have been mentioned above tell us that paying more attention to the differences between English and Chinese can exert positive influence on the improvement and correction of Chinglish. Professors are urged to lead the students to overcome too much use of animate subjects and to use inanimate subjects with more flexibility. In this way, students’ writing can be equipped with greater diversity of structures, more concise layout, more abundant vocabulary and most importantly, much more objectivity and more convincing tones. At the same time, professors can also ask students to check and comment on each other’s writings and improve the communication of their own experiences. In a word, only through applying more specific and practical teaching, can professors completely stimulate the potential ability and creativity of students’ language, which result in relatively more native English writing.

6.2.1. Enhance Basic Training of Vocabulary

What should be fully aware of is that the proficiency of using English words is quite essential regarding the further improvement of English writing. When students are learning vocabulary, meanings of words are undoubtedly pretty important. However, the appropriate utilization of each one of them under different situations is equally or even more important than merely mastering the meanings. For example, polysemy is a significant language phenomenon, and appears widely in every language. When it comes to polysemous words or synonyms, we should particularly take notice of the subtle but necessary usage of words in different contexts and situations. By analyzing and studying examples, we can deepen the understanding of words. Also, we should be aware of the differences between phrases, practice over and over again and finally acquire the proficiency and flexibility of using each word.

6.2.2. Emphasizing the Learning of Grammar

As mentioned above, the neglect of grammatical rules is also one of the main causes of Chinglish. For one reason, being influenced by Chinese sentence structures for a long time, college students can hardly avoid direct translation of Chinese in writings. Another reason that result in such sentences and writing habits is grammar. What can be easily neglected is that grammar, as the principles and restrictions of English language, not only provides the literal organization of sentences, but also embodies the inner feelings and emotions. If college students fail to follow the grammar, they can never express the true feeling of themselves.

As a matter of fact, Chinese college students can definitely understand the grammar, but they always have a difficult time putting these grammatical rules into actual use. Thus, the problem is a lack of relevant grammatical practice. For some of the grammar, it is quite necessary to practice time and time again to finally memorize and turn it into students’ own knowledge and habits. Only in this way, can they deepen the understanding of learnt grammar. Once students have mastered how to use grammar to express our mind, the Chinglish in their English writings can be easily eliminated.

6.2.3. Developing Students’ Habits of Thinking in English Ways

The essence of thinking in English ways is the maximum immersion to the foreign language and to use the foreign language as much as possible to avoid the "assistance" of one’s mother tongue. As long as one is more capable of applying English thinking patterns, he can express anything he wants with more accuracy. Professors play an important role in building up students’ habits of applying English thinking patterns. It’s quite significant for students to follow English mind-sets when they are communicating in daily life. Besides, professors are required to take any linguistic and social factors that may affect language learning into consideration and analyze the comparison of English and Chinese.

Firstly, when it comes to some English linguistic features quite different from those in Chinese, professors are supposed to remind students of paying particular attention to understanding them so that the students can be fully aware when, where, how to use English structures and words in the right way. Secondly, professors should use English to teach in classes as much as possible and try to avoid using their mother tongue. Last but not least, for writing lessons, for one aspect, professors ought to analyze, compare the differences between mind-sets of English and Chinese so that the students can be truly aware of this and then apply the thinking into writing practices. For another, professors can provide students with enough writing practices to train their ability to think in English ways.

In conclusion, in order to present more native and natural English compositions, cultural differences are the key element to work on. Only in this way, can students establish a sophisticated English thinking patterns in writing and overcome the Chinglish and other Chinese interference in English writings.

6.2.4. Developing Students’ interest in Reading

Writing is a producing process, an output. Without the input or absorption of the target language, output can hardly be achieved. Reading is one of the most effective and important means of having input of target languages for English learners. As a result, professors are supposed to encourage students to read massive amount of writing materials, learn writing techniques, enrich the spiritual knowledge, foster a great sense for languages and consequently, cultivate writing abilities. As for what to read, masterpieces and different kinds of passages are perfect. During reading, the combination of both extensive reading and intensive reading, curricular and extracurricular aspects are highly recommended. Besides, professors also need to require students to write reading notes. Developing good habits of recording the comments and feedbacks of reading materials are quite essential, which can turn the acquired knowledge from temporary memory into permanent memory. Reading and practicing at the same time can potentially exert great influence on English writings and elevate writing abilities.

Reading can not only help students to enlarge the accumulation of vocabulary, enhance the sense of language, but also benefit collecting and restoring more sentences and structures which are more vivid, more concise and most importantly, conform to English expression patterns. Professors are encouraged to provide students with a wide range of reading materials, set strict reading schedules and make sure students write down the summary and comments on the materials. The combination of reading with writing practices is undoubtedly an effective training method because reading can not only present students with more input opportunities by which students can accumulate some collocations and usages, but also summarize and observe western writing characteristics, acknowledge the identical thinking patterns so as to prepare for subsequent practices.

Regarding the Chinglish in college students’ compositions, professors shouldn’t offer complete denial and criticism, instead, they should guide the students on the right track based on different individual situations. Otherwise, it could seriously demotivate students’ enthusiasm and initiative of English learning and communication. Under certain circumstances, professors are encouraged to consider students’ Chinglish as the reflection of their courage to use English to express and communicate, i.e., a positive study attitude.

7. Conclusion

With the development of globalization, each country is getting more and more connected with another. Within the economic, political, cultural communications around the world, languages have been placed at a dominant position by every country. Undoubtedly, English is the most important and widely-recognized language in every country.

Thus, in recent years, English is playing a more and more important role in our nation. Especially for college students, English is one of the most important skills and qualifications to finish their bachelor’s degrees, pursue further academic development and even step into future career. And as the most significant part of English learning, English writing had been the weakest point for college students. The significance of English writing is beyond dispute. Practically speaking, college students are basically one step ahead of stepping into real society and experience a whole-new different lifestyle from their college life. English writing is indispensable for every kind of careers. As long as students can manage a good English writing, he/she can earn a much better and promising career outlook.

Thanks to the emphasis on English writing, there are indeed quite an improvement regarding students’ writing techniques, yet still far less qualified for the requirement of teaching programs. As students, the top priority is to raise the awareness of learning English writing and resort to various ways to foster and elevate writing abilities. As teaching staffs, the point is to transfer the teaching mode from the acquisition of knowledge to the acquisition of abilities, which is how to deal with the relationship between our mother tongue and a second language. Even if there are already many kinds of examination to examine the language abilities for students, for example, CET-4, TEM-4 etc., we still need to pay more attention to the daily practices and accumulation of language materials and establish native mind-sets. Only in those ways, can we avoid suffering Chinglish in our English writing. Both students and professors are urged to realize the severity of the problem and the significance of getting rid of Chinglish in writing practices.


The work is supported by the Teaching Research and Reform Project in Tianjin University of Finance and Economics in 2015(No. JGY2015 — 15, the Building Project of Excellent Teaching Team in the Integrated Investment Inventory-building Project in Tianjin University of Finance and Economics in 2015 and the Postgraduates’ Research Funding Project in Tianjin University of Finance and Economics (No. 2014TCS11).


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