Chinese English decoded

I am not a very big fan of spelling mistakes and bad grammar, which is especially the case when it comes to lectures and seminars. I know my English is miles from being perfect, but that is my problem, right? The issue, I believe, is when the lecturer or the seminar teacher have problems to communicate with the students, because that will affect everybody, even those who are native speakers.

Obviously, teachers from old colonial states like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and so on have no problems at all to communicate in English. People from small countries in Europe, like Scandinavia, speak fairly proper English as well. The problem is foremost PhD students from Southeast Asia who have been living in the UK for only a few years. They speak some sort of Chinese English, which is sometimes very hard to understand.

It is very understandable why it is so difficult for, say a Chinese, to learn English. I mean, look at it the other way around. Everybody from the Western part of the world who has studied Chinese know all the complications with learning Asian tonal languages. Take for example the sound “ma” which in Chinese means either “mother”, “hemp”, “horse” or “scold”, depending on if you say it with either a high pitch, rising, falling and then rising, or falling voice.

Anyway, in case you will talk economics with a Chinese in the future, I am going to decode some of the Chinese English terms. I will start with three of them:

economic gross =economic growth

money surprise = money supply

macroeconomic police = macroeconomic policy

These kind of speaking errors are mostly irritating, in the same way as if the reading material were full of grammatical errors. But sometimes it is actually quite funny. Take for instance a boring lecture about how the Bank of England buys and sells bonds to adjust the supply of money:

“Okay. So. When the economy is bad and GDP is falling, the Bank of England must change its macroeconomic police.”

“And how are they going to do that?” asks one of the students.

“For example, they could increase the money surprise.”

“Sorry, I just have a question. What is that horizontal line on the curve you have drawn?” interrupts another student.

“Oh, that is gross!”

Simon Hedlin Larsson

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