• Written by  Eins Yu

Can You Make a Sense of Chinglish?

chinglish Photo: sina

English, as a must-learned subject in schools of China since the late Nineties, has become part of Chinese people’s life. China’s shift from Russian-which has dominated the position of second foreign langue in China from the 1940s to the mid 1960s- to English means its open to the world.

However, to be honest, English is a nightmare for lots of Chinese students and workers. Admittedly, Chinese and English are poles apart grammatically and semantically, thus Chinese easily make mistakes whenever speak or write English. But, language is a live thing, not a dead one and the Chinese people who are known for the lack of creativeness create the Chinglish. If you are doing business or traveling in China, one of the following Chinglish phrases may hit your ears.


Have you eaten Photo: kekenet
Long time no see

This phrase has been widely accepted by English native speakers. It is quiet suitable to say this when you want to start a catch-up conversation with a person you haven’t seen for a while and somehow it shows that you miss the person in a euphemistic way . To cap it, you are very happy to see the person and it will help you to have a smooth start of the business talk.

Have you eaten

Generally you can equal this to “how do you do” or “how are you ”. The intention of this is far from showing interests in when you have your meal. Worse still, you will embarrass yourself if you take this as an invitation to dinner. All in all, it is just a basic greeting. You may just answer “yes, and you?”(“yes” can spare you from explaining the reason if you haven’t). For Chinese, they probably pay more attention to food rather than the weather.


slip carefully Photo: flickr
Slip carefully

This is one of the most well-known Chinglish signs. You may think you will see such a sign in front of a slide in an amusement park, but most of the cases are when you walk on the slippery marble floor. Actually, the “carefully” here means “to watch out for” . It wants to express the meaning of “wet floor” in idiomatic English.

WC(water closet)

When you see this sign in front of a door and you happen to look for a toilet, then you are already here. Actually, lots of Chinese think that WC is a slang and is imported from other English-speaking countries, however it just originated from China herself.


people mountain people sea
People mountain, people sea

China is really a country of people mountain and people sea. Well, the sentence can immediately bring out the meaning of the idiom. There is a similar one: people come and people go which is the equivalent of coming and going.

No zuo no die

This one once went viral online in 2014. You may find that the “zuo” is not an English word, actually it is the Chinese Pinyin(Pinyin is the method for converting Chinese characters into our alphabet.) of a Chinese character. It is a successful mixture of Chinese and English, at least in terms of the rhyme. You can amusingly say it to someone who does something only to invite the trouble .

In conclusion, behind the Chinglish is the different thinking patterns between the west and the east. However, due to the inclusiveness of English and the rise of China, more and more Chinglish will go to the world or even become part of English.

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