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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: May 11, 2010 NO 19 MAY 13, 2010
Will Banning Foreign Abbreviations Help?
Many opponents to the ban say it is difficult to deliberately exclude foreign abbreviations from Chinese people's daily life


Li Guohui (www.tianjinwe.com): It is true that people often read and hear foreign abbreviations like NBA, CBA, GDP, WTO and CPI in an era of the explosion of information. But how many people can explain accurately what these expressions stand for?

As information is upgraded quickly, readers tend to be satisfied with word-for-word scanning of what they read and exploiting only content that is useful and practical. This reading habit has been fueling popularity of the use of abbreviations in the media. In the long run, reading without thinking will discourage Chinese people from really understanding Western culture.

Undoubtedly, some foreign abbreviations have become useful symbols for many people. However, they are still "Greek" to some older people who don't follow the news and don't speak a foreign language. If these abbreviations are used without Chinese explanations, wouldn't it be unfair to this group of people?

Since abbreviations are cultural symbols, limiting the use of foreign abbreviations or adding a Chinese explanation can serve popularization of culture.

As a large number of words from foreign languages and Internet buzz words invented by young people are finding their way into the Chinese language, how to protect our mother tongue will become a significant challenge.

Fu Zhenguo (www.people.com.cn): It is worrying how Chinese people's craze for learning English has lowered necessary safeguards against the infiltration of English language into Chinese. If the phenomenon is not stopped, Chinese will be gradually reduced from an independent expression system to a mixture of languages. The status of Chinese as an embodiment of and the basis of the 5,000-year-old Chinese culture will be shaken.

English is without doubt a dominant language in today's world. New English words that closely follow new social trends spread fast and wide. Since government departments failed to give authoritative translations of these words to the public in the context of constant social communication in a timely way, many new English words have appeared in Chinese publications without being translated. Blending Chinese with English in publications and press is very harmful as they are models of language use and historical records—as well as a means of public communication.

It is impossible to keep Chinese immune to the influence of English. On one hand, the government shouldn't interfere with individuals' use of foreign languages. On the other hand, the government should monitor the proper use of the Chinese language in official documents and by media organizations. Although language is a dynamic and open system, we shouldn't abandon basic standardization rules.

Huang Wenwei (Global Times): The media is deeply engaged in the ongoing Westernization of Chinese language. Some TV program anchormen and anchorwomen love inserting into their speeches a few English words thinking it is fashionable, ignoring whether the audiences understand them or not.

The Internet is now filled with newly coined Chinese words that contain English letters. One survey shows words with letters account for 9 percent of the total of Chinese words.

Chinese is not alone in facing the infiltration of the English language. Many linguists in Japan have also pointed out the deepening Westernization of Japanese used by young people. They are worried about the appearance of an increase of English words in spoken and written Japanese, making the language nondescript.

Many people might say that the same trend in Japanese proves Westernization of languages is a symbol of globalization. It is true that accelerated globalization enables different cultures to integrate, but it is necessary to maintain linguistic independence and purity, because language is a source of a nation's culture. Pollution and infiltration of other languages will damage the flavor and inheritance of a culture. Spoken and written Chinese and its grammar have all faced the challenge of Westernization. In the long term, the young generation's Chinese comprehension and writing skills might become compromised.

Cultural openness shouldn't sacrifice traditions. Language, as part of a culture, is an important component of a country's overall strength. The government should be responsible for preventing the Westernization of Chinese and maintaining its purity. The media should also become role models in this drive.

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