Chinese TV stations told to stop using English phrases

By Chen Jia and Zhao Yinan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-04-07 07:40
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BEIJING - TV viewers may no longer be able to hear English abbreviations, like "NBA" (National Basketball Association), from mainland broadcasters.

China Central Television (CCTV) and Beijing Television (BTV) confirmed to China Daily on Tuesday that they had received a notice from a related government department, asking them to avoid using certain English abbreviations in Chinese programs.

The channels, however, did not reveal exactly how many English abbreviations are listed in the notice.

The Hangzhou-based Today Morning Express reported on Tuesday that a number of provincial television stations have also received the notice.

Broadcasters and journalists have been asked to provide Chinese explanations for unavoidable English abbreviations in their programs, the report said.

The notice not only limits the use of English abbreviations in sports news, but also in economic and political news. Abbreviations such as "GDP" (gross domestic product), "WTO" (World Trade Organization) and "CPI" (consumer price index) will also be substituted with their Chinese pronunciations, it said.

The country's top watchdog on television and radio, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, refused to comment.

The move comes after a growing number of national legislators and political advisors called for preventive measures to preserve the purity of the Chinese language.

"If we don't pay attention and don't take measures to stop mixing Chinese with English, the Chinese language won't remain pure in a couple of years," said Huang Youyi, editor-in-chief of the China International Publishing Group and secretary-general of the Translators' Association of China.

"In the long run, Chinese will lose its role as an independent linguistic system for passing on information and expressing human feelings," he told China Daily in an earlier interview.

According to his proposal, all documents and speeches of top government officials should be written in pure Chinese, without the use of English abbreviations such as GDP, WTO or CPI.

His proposal also noted that a law or regulation should be introduced to serve as a guideline for the use of foreign words in domestic publications, and that a national translation committee should be set up to translate foreign names and technical terms, which can then be published on a website.

The restricted use of English abbreviations on Chinese television programs has provoked a debate among scholars.

"It makes no sense to introduce a regulation to prevent the use of English in the Chinese language in the face of globalization," Liu Yaoying, a professor at the Communication University of China, said on Tuesday. "It is cultural conservatism."

"If Western countries can accept some Chinglish words, why can't the Chinese language be mixed with English?"

The Singaporean newspaper New Straits Times and London's Daily Telegraph both used Chinese Pinyin Lianghui in their reports about the annual meeting of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, rather than using English to paraphrase the proceedings.

Governments of some Western countries have also attempted to preserve the purity of their languages.

For example, France is a country known for its linguistic pride. Its government outlaws advertising in English and mandates a 40 percent quota of French songs on the radio, according to a Christian Science Monitor report.