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"Unique Immigrants" in American English
America can usually be compared to a melting pot, where the fusions of different peoples and cultures are ongoing in every field and every corner. Therefore, American English, without exception, owns its own fused "immigrants".

In its vocabulary, we can always find many borrowed derivations from French, German, Latin and Spanish as well as a lot of loanwords like "zebra" from Kongo, "sarong" from Malay and "tatami" from Japanese. Furthermore, Chinese language takes a unique and important part in the loanword group as well as in the whole vocabulary.

With China's expanding influence to the world and Chinese people's growing enthusiasm of learning the foreign language, more and more English words derived from Chinese pinyin rapidly invade the American English vocabulary. Besides, some Chinglish phrases and sentences, though translated literally against grammar rules, have even been listed into official dictionaries.

Now a collection of such words and phrases are to be listed as follows:

1. Confucius 孔子

"Confucius" comes from the transliteration of the Chinese term "孔夫子" (Kong Fuzi), an honorific title conferred upon a great Chinese philosopher called Kong Qiu. As a man of virtue, true knowledge and great personality, Confucius has been setting virtues and maxims during his lifetime. And his precious words were included in Lun Yu ("Analects of Confucius") for future generations and formed China's orthodox thoughts – Co'nfucianism.

Early in the 18th century, Voltaire in France once said that European businessmen have only seen wealth in the orient, but the philosopher have found a new spiritual world. And Mr. Kong, of course, stands in heart of this world. Moreover, it's said that Morgue, a scholar in Hamburg, found an English version of "Analects of Confucius" published in 1961, which shows that Confucianism spread to the West at least 300 years ago. And the phrase "Confucius says" went around the mouths of western people in 1960s, when a tide of orient culture was rising up.

2. kung fu 功夫

"Kung fu" comes from the transliteration of the Chinese term "功夫" (Gong Fu). Literally translated as "skill from effort", it actually refers to Chinese martial arts and is considered as a typical part of Chinese culture.

Nowadays, its influences have extended to the movies that target a much wider audience. There are many Kung fu movies made by Chinese directors, such as "Hero", "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "House of Flying Daggers", which have always been warmly welcomed in western countries. Meanwhile, Chinese Kung fu (action-film) stars, ranged from Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li to Zhen Zidan, have successively catapulted to celebrity status in Hollywood. Even recently, the hottest cartoon- "Kung fu Panda" directed by Americans - has provided a good display platform for Kung fu.

We can see that Chinese Kung fu has spread beyond its ethnic roots and have a global appeal. As a result, the phrase "Kung fu" naturally emerges in the Americans' daily vocabulary.

3. Mahjong 麻将

Mahjong is transliterated from the Chinese term "麻将" (Ma Jiang). It's a type of traditional tile-matching game played by four people, involving skill, strategy, calculation and a certain degree of luck.

Qian Zhongshu, a celebrated Chinese scholar has referred mahjong as China's "national skill"; Liang Qichao even said that playing mahjong is better than reading; and most people believe mahjong can be found wherever there are Chinese. As is seen, mahjong culture has been deeply ingrained in the Chinese community.

Besides, it appears that mahjong, with its unique cultural characteristics, has received a worldwide popularity today. There happened to be a case for certification: Hu Shi found that mahjong had already settled down in American families on his first visit there and he was no more proud to see that almost every clubs had set the game.

Accordingly, the term "mahjong" was most probably introduced to meet the widespread needs in the United States.

4. Long time no see! 好久不见!

Although there aren’t loanwords in this sentence, it’s a saying translated literally against English grammar rules. Actually, it was what we call Chinglish and has become authentic English saying. Thus it can be seen, our extensive and profound Chinese culture has infiltrated into the American English.

Certainly, there still exist many other English words, which are of Chinese origin and rich in particular cultural connotation. If you are interested and eager to learn more, don’t hesitate to take a relevant FREE one-to-one live lesson at eChineseLearning, a worldwide leader in Chinese language instruction.


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