METM22 presentation

Sino-Fennic English: minorities working in a third language

Kenneth Quek, Helsinki, Finland

The great and increasing importance of Chinese researchers and institutions has a powerful influence on global academia, including in Europe. One of the subtler manifestations of this influence appears in the growing prevalence of  “Chinglish” – i.e. English affected by Chinese syntax and idiom – in certain academic fields. Non-native users of English who work in these fields are likely to pick up and replicate such usages, normalising them as part of field-specific language. However, this can become a problem when it impedes communication and mutual understanding with the rest of the English-using world.

This presentation will consider how non-native users of English affect the standard of English within their field through a case study of texts produced by Chinese academics in Finland. It will identify common Chinglish usages that hinder clear communication and will offer guidance on how such texts can be revised to improve their clarity. The insights provided will be specifically helpful when editing texts produced by Chinese users. They will also be useful when dealing with texts produced by expatriate Chinese and local academics in an L2 research setting in which English is the lingua franca and the local language is a minority global language. As this presentation will show, the written English that emerges from situations like this reflects the English proficiency of L2 speakers from very different linguistic backgrounds.

The talk will be of interest to editors and researchers alike, particularly those who work in fields dominated by writers whose English use is strongly affected by their native language. It will offer tools to analyse how these varieties of English can be revised to improve their clarity for readers used to more standard varieties.
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About the presenter

Kenneth Quek is a Singaporean residing in Helsinki. He is bilingual in English and Chinese and works both as an academic reviser for the University of Helsinki’s Language Centre and as a freelance editor and copywriter in the corporate sector. He has previous experience in private teaching, translation and journalism.