Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why Chinese are learning English

The Language Log blog is always claiming that anything can be translated from any language to any other. But in reality, there is no practical substitute for English:
I asked the BC professor how his lectures were going, and he told me that he found it extremely frustrating to talk about his specialty in Chinese. In those days, the level of English knowledge was still minimal in most sectors of the population, including in the universities. He told me that he spent most of his time just trying to convey in Mandarin the meaning of essential technical terms in English. It often ended up that, in essence, he was serving both as a fund of information about biochemistry and also as a teacher of technical English vocabulary. ...

That's just one field in which technical and linguistic transfer were going on simultaneously. It was happening in virtually every field of science and technology, and in later decades it happened in the social sciences and the humanities as well.
Occasionally I hear people say that Chinese language is more important, because of their growing population and economy. No, Chinese languages are unsuitable for the modern world, and they are learning English.

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