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The Biggest Challenge For a Chinese Person to Write in English


The other day when I was reading China Daily, a story interested in me quite a lot. It was not the story itself that attracted me, but the way the story was told and commented.

There are several things that I would like to mention.

"… after being kidnapped by some unknown assisters" this is typically Chinglish – Chinese English. Grammatically, this sentence is correct. However, I would doubt the use of the word "some". Is it really necessary in reporting news? Can't we just say "… after being kidnapped by unknown seekers"? Isn't it enough? Then I would guess this sentence must have been translated literally from Chinese, in which we tend to say "some" when the exact figure is unknown.

Another literal translation was found in the same story. "The Sudanese government will also be asked to 'severely punish the killers …" Grammar is correct, and no Chinglish is found. However, this would a serious and rude interference with another country's own affairs. How can we "ask" another country to something that we want? And the punishment should be as per laws and decrees of this country. How can we ask them to "severely" punish the suspects? I meant no sympathy for those who killed my fellow people. I'm really concerned about the reaction that this story would probably get.

In Chinese, we are used to hear and see reports saying "severely punished". However, we can not ask a court, which is seen as independent in the west, to punish a person severely or lightly.

So, the biggest challenge here, as I see, is that you have to think in a way that the English speaking people use. Try not literally translate Chinese into English. This is dangerous.

By Eric Zhou

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