China bars English words in all publications

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Chinese newspapers, books and websites will no longer be allowed to use English words and phrases, the country's publishing body has announced, saying the "purity" of the Chinese language is in peril.

The General Administration of Press and Publication, which announced the new rule on Monday, said the increasing use of English words and abbreviations in Chinese texts had caused confusion and was a means of "abusing the language".

Such practices "severely damaged the standard and purity of the Chinese language and disrupted the harmonious and healthy language and cultural environment, causing negative social impacts," the body said on its website.

"It is banned to mix at will foreign language phrases such as English words or abbreviations with Chinese publications, creating words of vague meaning that are not exactly Chinese or of any foreign language," it said.

"Publishing houses and the media must further strengthen the regulated use of foreign languages and respect the structure, glossary and grammar of the Chinese and foreign languages."

GAPP said companies which violated the regulation would face "administrative punishment" without offering specifics.

English abbreviations such as NBA (National Basketball Association), GDP (gross domestic product), CPI (consumer price index) and WTO (World Trade Organization) are commonly used in Chinese publications.

They are also often used in everyday conversation, and government officials routinely use the abbreviations at press conferences.

The body left a small loophole, stipulating in the regulation that "if necessary", English terms could be used but must be followed by a direct translation of the abbreviation or an explanation in Chinese.

The names of people or places in English also must be translated.

One editor at a Beijing publishing house told the China Daily that the new GAPP regulation could actually result in reduced understanding.

"The intention of protecting the Chinese language is good. But in an age of globalisation, when some English acronyms like WTO have been widely accepted by readers, it might be too absolute to eliminate them," the editor said.

"Conversationally, people also use these words all the time, so the regulation could create discord between the oral and written uses of language."

China has launched several campaigns in recent years to try to root out poor grammar and misused vocabulary in official usage.

Sometimes those campaigns go awry, resulting in awkward Chinglish. In the run-up to last month's Asian Games in Guangzhou, signs were posted in the metro that read "Towards Jichang". "Jichang" means airport.

Earlier this year, China Central Television and Beijing Television told the China Daily that they had received notification from the government to avoid using certain English abbreviations on Chinese programmes.

But English abbreviations are still commonly heard on regular news and sports broadcasts.

The Global Times quoted an editor at a Beijing publishing house as saying finding translations for globally used acronyms would be time-consuming and confusing.

"I wonder how many people understand 'guoji shangye jiqi gongsi', when IBM is instantly recognisable," the editor said.

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