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‘Open water room’ = ‘hot water room’?: Language reality and normativity with respect to the use of English in China's public service areas

  • Mingwu Xu and Chuanmao Tian


The rupture between China and the former Soviet Union in the 1960s saw English replace Russian to become the most important foreign language in mainland China, and with the implementation of opening-up in the late 1970s, English was used more and more widely, especially in foreign-related public service areas. The use of English in China was accelerated by the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai Expo. However, there were various problems with the use of English, notably in bilingual public signs (BISU-CSRC, 2007; Wang & Zhang, 2016) (see Figure 1). As a result, the derogatory word ‘Chinglish’ was invented by Pinkham (2000) as an umbrella term for all kinds of problematic English used by Chinese people. Since 2006, in response to this situation, the provincial and central governments in the country have made great efforts to offer guidelines for the use of English in public signs. For example, on June 20, 2017, the Ministry of Education (MOE), the State Language Commission (SLC) and the Standardization Administration of China (SAC) jointly issued the Guidelines for the Use of English in Public Service Areas (GUEPSA) which came into effect on December 1, 2017.


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‘Open water room’ = ‘hot water room’?: Language reality and normativity with respect to the use of English in China's public service areas

  • Mingwu Xu and Chuanmao Tian


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