Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who are you pointing at? [War on Chinglish - 20]

It is very common to hear the Chinese speaking of, for example, "those poor people in Africa" or "those foreigners studying Mandarin".

Oh dear. They have no idea how RUDE this often sounds.

I think this mistake arises because Chinese lacks articles, and so often uses zhege, nage - this, that, these, those - where English would use the (or a, or no word at all).

Those is a demonstrative adjective/pronoun – i.e., it calls special attention to something; it specifies a group of people or things as notable for some reason, distinct from the general group of which they are a part. It also very often implies a distancing from the speaker, and thus can suggest disdain, dislike, or disapproval

Chinese English speakers use those very commonly where they should just use the definite article the (for a specified group: “We should donate money for the earthquake victims in Sichuan”) or no article (for a general, unspecified group: “I feel sorry for homeless people”).

Saying things like “those earthquake victims” or “those homeless people” tends to sound patronising or contemptuous. Please stop doing it.

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