November 10, 2005

English Verb, Chinese Verb Complement

In business settings, and especially at hi-tech businesses, you rarely hear "pure" Chinese. There are many English words that do not have a commonly used Chinese translation, and there are many words that are said in English for no apparent reason. Some of the English words that are common in Chinese conversation are very local to the business environment, while some are universal. In my opinion, the funniest example of mixing English into Chinese sentences is when English verbs are used with Chinese verb complements. The English verbs do not need complements, so the use of a complement does not affect their meanings, but some Chinese speakers feel more comfortable integrating the English word into Chinese grammar. Examples:
delete 掉 (delete-diao)
remove 掉 (remove-diao)
cancel 掉 (cancel-diao, also pronounced can-diao)
stay 住 (stay-zhu)
keep 住 (keep-zhu)
I also think that I have heard:
catch 住 (catch-zhu)
miss 掉 (miss-diao)
I am sure there are many more, and I will try to add more as I hear them.

Another funny feature of English in Chinese is that some English words are pronounced using Chinese tones. For example, I often hear people start a sentence with the word "anyway." It is pronounced "an-y-way" with the first two syllables a high tone, and the third syllable a falling tone. Whether pronounced correctly or not, it is easy to mistake "anyway" for the Chinese word "yinwei" (因為), which has a high tone for the first syllable and a falling tone for the second syllable.

Update: I heard this one second-hand and it was too hilarious not to record. One person, who favored the english word "try," said, "你可以自己 try try 看."


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