Lately I’ve been extremely annoyed with several Chinese speakers (who are otherwise perfectly nice people, BTW). I’m preparing for the professional exams for my MA program, which require me to interpret in both directions between Chinese and English about pretty much any topic they decide to throw at us. So obviously it is of great interest to me to expand my Chinese vocabulary, and the best way to expand your vocabulary is (no surprise here) to learn new words, right?
The thing is, lately when I have been speaking Chinese about somewhat “deeper” topics (I mean meatier than “so whadja do last weekend?” and stuff like that – more like semiconductors, Taiwan’s economic development, human rights, cellular technology, whatever) I’m getting too much English. I don’t mean they speak English to me – I can deal with that. I mean that whenever the speaker gets to the key word – the word I’m waiting to pick up – it comes out in English amid the otherwise Chinese sentence.
And this is happening even in sentences where there is absolutely no need to use English. I can see people replacing some technical terms with the English term because people tend to read textbooks in English when studying some of these things. But what if you heard:
“Nei ge ‘school’ bu yiyang, bu shi ‘mainstream’ de ‘school’, shi hen tebie de.”
I mean, come on, I’m pretty certain at this point that there are perfectly good, commonly-used Chinese words for “school” and “mainstream” (in fact I use 'em myself all the time, so I’m not sure what this is all about.)
I say we start a movement in Taiwan where we, as native English speakers, drop in some Zhongwen words every ji ge words in our juzi, just to kan kan how the people will fanying.
I know this is called “code-switching” and it’s a normal linguistic phenomenon, but usually code-switching is related to the situation or the subject or the person you’re talking to. This kind of code-switching doesn’t fit any of the linguistic research I’ve ever seen to have people doing it on common topics. And yes, the people involved were perfectly aware that I do in fact speack Chinese and am capable of understanding more than Shita AVC-1 level. And the culprits include a teacher who is supposedly briefing us (3 Chinese students and me) in Chinese on the content of an English speech that we will have to interpret simultaneously into Chinese three minutes later. Grrrrrr.