Chinglish is the second most popular language in Shanghai. First is Manderin Chinese, of course. Second is Chinglish. Coming in a close third is English. After that there is a huge variety such as German, French, Spanish etc… But Chinglish is my favorite. It is seemingly spoken by everyone. Native Chinese born and foreigners alike.
Many of you may know some Spanglish. This is a popular variety of the Chinglish style spoken in many parts of the U.S. The brain works in mysterious ways and when I can’t think of a word in Chinese I come up with the Spanish word and sometimes come out with the strangest sentences. For instance ‘yo’ in Spanish means ‘I’ but ‘yo’ in Chinese means ‘to have’. I get all garbled up and say ‘yo yo’. I’m not sure if I am saying I have something, naming a toy, or sounding like a rap star. In the end nobody can understand me 😦
The real beauty of Chinglish, as compared to Spanglish, is that the Chinese and western cultures can be so completely different in their outlook on a situation that the resulting attempts to communicate are truly hysterical.
There are the attempts by the foreigners to speak Chinese but because of the challenge of tones we often say things that we really don’t mean. My friend J. got stranded in a boat on a small touristy lake when the motor gave out. Several boats were passing and she called for help in the best Manderin she could muster. But they just kept going. Perhaps they didn’t hear her. Feeling pretty confident she tried again with the next passing boat. She continued to get strange looks. Finally a boat operator saw her adrift and towed her in. When she checked with her Chinese friends later she found out that she had been calling out “Please, my table is broken – throw me a melon!” I am sure the Chinese natives looked at her like she was a crazy tourist 🙂
Then there are the attempts by the Chinese to speak or to translate their signs into English for tourists. We have had lots of good belly laughs over these signs. I told S2 that he should work really hard on learning Manderin and he could have a very full career just going around the country correcting all the signs! Here are a few examples: