01 July, 2007:
Interaction with English and Western Languages
The sharing of words and linguistic elements such as grammar is an indication of interaction between languages. China has always been a dominant power in Asia, so it is natural that Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese adopted elements of Chinese. Chinese borrowings in Western languages indicate that China has historically been influential on a global scale as well.
Naturally there has been a great deal of sharing between European languages. Europe is relatively small on a global scale, and languages constantly interact with one another. China, on the other hand is half way around the world, and Chinese is completely different than any European language. Certainly there is not much exchange between such widely disparate languages.
In fact, there are many English vocabulary items that come from Chinese either directly or through the filter of other languages. Because the Western world interacted with China mainly for trade purposes, Chinese vocabulary was picked up by Western traders in China, and through middlemen who also used Chinese as the language of trade.
Actually, the word ketchup comes from Chinese (although the product itself does not). Ketchup was originally a Chinese word in Minnan Dialect, min2nan2hua4 闽南话. The Chinese word pronounced kê-tsiap, indicated a pickled fish sauce. The term was then adopted by Malaysian merchants as "kechap". Finally it reached Dutch traders who spelled the word "ketjap". Having entered the Western vocabulary, it was only a matter of time before ketchup came to describe a tomato sauce that is delicious on French Fries.
Borrowing Through Translation
English borrowings from Chinese are not limited to food products. In fact, some supposedly English sayings are really translated Chinese-isms. For example, the popular greeting, “long time no see” comes from the Chinese proverb, cheng2yu3 成语, “hao3jiu4bu4jian4, 好久不见.” Literally translated, the four characters in this expression mean “good long-time no see.” Another English phrase that come from Chinese is the expression “look-y look-y,” or “look-look” which comes from the Chinese kan4 yi4 kan4 (看一看) and means “take a look.” A “look-see” is also a translation of the Chinese compound kan4jian4 (看见), which means “to see.”