CHINA: New form of English emerging

China's emergence as a 21st century superpower will change the way English is used internationally, according to language experts at the University of Melbourne.

In a book* published last week, Melbourne Graduate School of Education researchers Professor Joseph LoBianco and Dr Jane Orton argue that the world's communications profile will change dramatically because of increased English language learning in China and increased Chinese language learning in the rest of the world.

The authors say there are now more Chinese people learning English than there are Americans. But they are learning a 'domesticated' form of the language with English words that have been adopted for social and identity purposes.

Orton, director of a new Chinese teacher training centre within the school, says native English speakers need to learn how to interact with this new form of the language: "The way English is used as the international lingua franca is likely to change as the numbers of Chinese English speakers increase," she says.

"We need to learn how to interact with the 'new' form of English. At the same time, China is currently engaged in an explicit campaign to spread the influence of Chinese language and culture and that will also have a significant global impact. We are seeing quite strong efforts to push the learning of Chinese outside China, not just in Western countries but also in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America."

LoBianco says languages have significant implications for individuals' identities, which can be clearly seen in the interaction between Chinese and English.

"While languages can and should have practical as well as more cultural intellectual aims it is clear that they also carry deep consequences for people's identity. Although this influence tends to be discussed in terms of 'Westernisation', we have actually seen a longstanding pattern of mutual influence," he says.

"This Eastern influence has enhanced our lifestyles and the commercial opportunities available to us in so many ways. It is important we embrace China's rapidly developing role in the world, and encourage our young people to not just learn the language, but learn more about their culture too."

* China and English: Globalisation and the Dilemmas of Identity will be available from / at the discounted price of A$25 until 15 January and thereafter for GBP24.95.