Thursday, August 16, 2007

Netizens Don’t Get New Web Vocabularies

Many Chinese web users found themselves nearly illiterate in front of a list of new vocabulary said to be mostly originated from the Web, which was released on Thursday by China’s Ministry of Education.

The list, containing over 170 new Chinese words, is compiled by language experts at the ministry, as part of its report on the use of Chinese language in 2006.

But a majority of the over 1000 netizens commenting on the new release, including some heavy web users, said they did not recognize most of these new words. Indeed, except for only a few terms, such as blog article, grassroots netizen, second-generation one-child family, and Gu Ge, the Chinese version for Google, the list is full of words that do not make much sense to even native Chinese speakers.

“I’m afraid it’s the first time for most Chinese people to see 90 percent of the words on the list,” one commented.

“I’m on the Internet for more than 14 hours everyday, but found half of the words unheard of…” said another.

Quite a few people saw such vocabulary simply as language pollution that should be tossed away instead of receiving official documentation. Some went on to criticize the MOE as being irresponsible in giving official release to such terms, since they might disappear very soon and would not stay in the daily language use in China’s fast changing cultural and social arena.

But some commentators supported the documentation of these new words and called for a more open attitude toward new trends in the development of Chinese language.

“I always welcome new words springing up like mushrooms after rain,” one poster said. “The mother tongue has a distant origin and a long stream, rich and deep, only because it is constantly changing and developing.”

Nevertheless, it seemed to be a common agreement that time will finally decide whether these new words, however ridiculous they might appear to be, will become permanent components of modern Chinese.

According to the MOE report on Chinese language use, the number of Chinese blogs has come to the third place right after Japanese and English ones. Blogs, Internet news, email, BBS and cell phone short messages have become the main origin of new words in Chinese, the report says. This is also the first time the MOE tried to document some of these new words entering Chinese people’s daily life in recent years, said Li Yuming, head of the ministry’s Bureau of Language and Information Management.

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