LINGUIST List 9.433

Sat Mar 21 1998

Disc: Other Englishes

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. A.F. GUPTA, Re: 9.405, Disc: Other Englishes
  2. WEISHAN ZHANG, Re: 9.405, Disc: Other Englishes

Message 1: Re: 9.405, Disc: Other Englishes

Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1998 09:13:02 GMT
Subject: Re: 9.405, Disc: Other Englishes

 Su Xiaojun wrote:

about an argument --"why shouldn't we have our own Chinese English?"

>will fostering Chinese English hinder international communication &
>what will happen if there is no norm to refer to in EFL teaching &
>what should be the norm if there should be one?

Most of the Englishes that are (more or less) accepted as alternative
standards of English are from places where English has a widespread
internal currency. English is one of the locally used languages of
India, Singapore and Nigeria, for example. This is Kachru's 'Outer
Circle'. In the case of places where English is little used by people
of the country within the country (France, Japan) -- Kachru's
'Expanding Circle' -- the idea of them having a local standard is more
controversial. China of course has recently been enlarged by the
addition of an 'Outer Circle' area, Hong Kong, which means that it
already contains one of these local norms.

It's important to look at what learners and users of a language are
doing with it. The old idea that you learn English to speak to
British and American people, and that you learn the culture of the
language along with the language is very limiting and rather
unrealistic. If you are learning English in China you are likely to
be using it with people from all over the world, many of whom are
coming from Outer Circle or Expanding Circle countries. It's
important for learners to understand that there is not ONE (not even
TWO) 'right' way of using English, but many, which they will have to
cope with, like all English users.

Given the tremendous diversity in English, and given the fact that
comprehension is negotiated between speakers in a situation of real
need, I don't think there is much point worrying about international

In drawing up syllabuses it's important to be both realistic in terms
of the needs of the learners, and also in terms of the model being
within the general framework of Standard English. The Standard
Englishes of the world share a common spelling system (with very minor
variations), a common (almost entirely) grammatical system, with, for
example, particular patterns of concord and tense. They differ in a
few lexical items, some of them needed to express local culture.
Pronunciation varies dramatically within Standard English. Syllabuses
should therefore pay attention to maintaining those features which
keep the learner within the Standard Englishes.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Anthea Fraser GUPTA :$staff/afg
School of English
University of Leeds
 * * * * * * * * * * * *
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Message 2: Re: 9.405, Disc: Other Englishes

Date: Fri, 20 Mar 1998 12:09:28 CST6CDT
Subject: Re: 9.405, Disc: Other Englishes

On 19 Mar 98 at 10:09, The LINGUIST List wrote:

> LINGUIST List: Vol-9-405. 

Hi! Xiaojun,

Your question really intrigued me even though this is not my research
field. The reason is that I'm a Chinese, and I've been here for eight
years, first studying English and later teaching it in the U.S.

I still remember a professor in Peensylvania suggested to me that
there is such English as Chinese English, an English similar to
Sigaporean English. But I can't hardly agree with him. Unlike other
Englishes, such as Indian English and Nigerian English, English
language has NEVER been an official language in China, a language used
by the majority Chinese in their daily communications. And probably
English will NEVER be an Official language in China. This means that
the English used by the educated Chinese in the mainland of China has
not formed its independent variety of English grammar and even

English, to a great extent, is an idiomatic language rather than
sentences formed simply according to grammatical rules. If you read
essays written by the Chinese student or even sthe articles in China
Daily, you can see that the biggest problems with these
essays/articles are lack of idioms in them. It seems that oftentimes
their sentences are grammartical but not idiomatic.

On the other hand, a language has to reflect the social, cultual and
political reality/change of a society. That's why we have "the iron
rice bow." For a native speaker of English to understand what we are
talking about in English, he or she needs to know our culture.
Therefore, standard English (American/British) plus the words/phrases
which reflect the Chinese culture should be the basis of "Chinese
English," if anybody prefers to call it.

Finally, I want to emphasize that it's not helpful for our students to
believe that there is an independent variety of English, Chinese
English. English is a language we non-native speakers would probably
have to spend our whole life to learn. I really don't want to see we
Chinese speak an "English" which native speakers of English have
absolutely no idea of what we're talking about, if the difficulty is
not caused by their lack of knowledge about China.

Weishan Zhang, Ph.D. 
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