The English that Feels Weird in Your Chinese
02 Mar 2017
Anyone that has studied Chinese for a while and made it to at least the intermediate level will notice that certain English words are used. Sometimes it’s words that seem cool or trendy to use in English, like “Starbucks” or “Doctor Strange.” Other times it’s English acronyms that are just easy to keep in English rather than translating into Chinese, such as “FBI” or “NBA” or “MBA.” And still other times, it’s “false acronyms” with Chinese characteristics such as “PPT” (for Powerpoint presentations) or “APP” (for “app”).
I’m not talking about any of those. These are all fairly easy to pick up and incorporate into one’s daily conversations. I’m talking about another kind, while not difficult at all to understand, made me cringe a little at first. And now, even though I’m quite used to them, I can’t really stomach using them in my own speech. But these are words that I hear even people that don’t speak much English using.
- make sense: most notably, the phrase “不make sense.” (I recall Jenny used to use this on ChinesePod occasionally, but she’s not the only Chinese person to use this English phrase in Chinese!)
- man: this means “manly,” as in “很man“
- fashion: this means “fashionable,” as in “很fashion“
- in: used as an adjective to describe fads or trends, as in “很in“
- out: used to describe what’s NOT cool, but this time as either an adjective or as a verb: “太out了” or “你out了“
- OK: although sometimes this word feels just like it does in English, there’s something about the phrase “也OK” instead of “也可以” that always feels odd to me
- high (often written as “嗨“): I’ve never heard this used in the “drug high” sense; it’s always in the “natural high” sense, as in “玩得很high” for “have/had a blast”
- get: this seems to be a synonym for 懂, as in “只有你能get我“
- down: a verb, short for “download”
Here are some examples collected from the web. Many of them seem to be from Taiwanese sources.
To be clear, this is not just regular “Chinglish,” where English gets randomly mixed in with Chinese. These are words that seem to have snuck into common usage among young people (maybe first in Taiwan?), even when those people don’t speak much English, and don’t necessarily even have an international education.
Do these usages feel weird coming out of your own mouth? Or can you use them naturally?
What other examples can you share?