Why Chinese Sound Impolite When Speaking in English?

Chinglish is common in China

Chinese are well known for their Chinglish or Chenglish-an invented world that combines Chinese and English. Knowing little rules about sandhi is the largest problem of pronunciation for Chinese English speakers. However, all these are not the problems that matter mostly. Americans and other people whose native language is English often agree that Chinese sound impolite when speaking English. The fact is that Chinese are polite but not their ways of talking in English.

In a restaurant or a café, Chinese often order like: ‘I want to have a hamburger’ or ‘I want to have a coffee’, which is often seen as being impolite native English speakers. Of course, they would not correct Chinese people’s English directly. There are many similar examples such the one above. In addition, Chinese don’t know how to refuse other people in English euphemistically.

Some English speaking skills are sometimes difficult for Chinese to understand and master such as following:

  • People in US and European countries tend to use model verbs or model auxiliaries such as can, could, may and would more often, which make the manner of speaking sound more polite.
  • The subjunctive is often used. Chinese are less more likely to use the subjunctive forms such as would rather, would sooner and so on.
  • Please at the middle or end of sentences but not at the beginning. Chinese English speakers tend to put please at the beginning, which sound like giving orders.
  • Chinese are used to using declarative sentences, which give people the impressions of impoliteness and stiff. However, interrogative sentences and the usage of subordinate clauses can avoid giving others the impressions of peremptoriness and subjectiveness.

Languages are closely associated with nation culture, which is difficult for other nation people to learn and master. Therefore, language barrier is inevitable. Next time if you think that Chinese are rude, you should remind yourself that they aren’t mean to in fact sometimes.