Subtle Chinglish

Apart from hilarious signs like “Slip Carefully (Careful! Slippery Floor)” and glaring grammatical errors, Chinglish can take more subtle forms. They may appear all correct at first glance, but just don’t feel right upon closer inspection. Here are some common examples in financial writing:

Market: 市場(market) is used more frequently in Chinese than English. 市場傳言, 市場預期 and 市場情緒 (lit. “market rumours”, “market expectation” and “market sentiment”) are simply “rumours”, “expectation” and “sentiment” in English, because it’s understood that they belong to the market. Likewise, don’t let 市場上的競爭對手 trick you into writing “competitors in the market”. “Competitors” will do. Where else will you find competitors? In your dreams?

Successfully: Because of the interference of 成功收購, many people write “successfully acquired” without second thought. But of course if you have acquired something, you have succeeded in doing so. It’s even worse when people say “successfully achieved” and “successfully won”, as if it is possible to achieve or win unsuccessfully. Use “acquired”, “achieved” and “won”.

The 成功 in Chinese serves an emphatic purpose. This is commonly seen in press releases. To reproduce the same emphasis in English, try “with great success” or “the event is a complete success”. It is also better to explain why it is a success than just giving empty descriptions.

Relatively: Relatively strong / low / weak makes sense; relatively stronger / lower / weaker doesn’t, because “relatively” overlaps with the comparative form of the adjective. However this word is often used as lousy cosmetics. An investment with “relatively small risks” will probably break you. “Kevin is relatively good-looking” is not a complement, but an euphemism.


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