China bans English abbreviations on TV

CCTV and other media have received a notice issued by the relevant department, in broadcasting, reporter’s interviews and subtitles must not use foreign languages and their abbreviations, for example “GDP”, “WTO”, “CPI”, etc. If under special circumstances the foreign language words and abbreviations are used, the Chinese interpretations must follow. Abbreviations like “NBA”, “CBA” and “F1” etc. must be replaced with full phrases in Chinese language.

Central Chinese Television CCTV, Beijing

Chinese News on April 7 reports, Ever since April, the sports fans who often watch the CCTV sports news programs must have felt awkward – the familiar English abbreviations like “NBA” “CBA” and “F1” are replaced by full Chinese names: “美国职业篮球联赛”(if translate directly: The United States Professional Basketball League) “中国男子篮球联赛”(Chinese Men’s Basketball League) “一级方程式赛车锦标赛” (Formula One Championship)… this was not an April fool’s day joke, reporter confirmed that CCTV and other media have received a notice issued by the relevant department, requiring to stop the use of English abbreviations as much as possible in the future television programs. Currently, many sports news from station including CCTV and Beijing TV already modified their programs.

CCTV sports Channel Director Jiang Heping said in an interview “Before this, CCTV has also conducted survey to its viewers. Survey showed a large part of the viewers do not know what ‘NBA’ is, or ‘NBA’ to them only means basketball, ‘CBA’ and ‘F1’ etc. had the same result. I think that regulation like this not only can affect the audiences’ viewing habits, but it will also help the audiences to understand more of these events.”

In regards to CCTV and other media stop using English Abbreviations, Xie Qian, Professor of Literature in Sichuan University said in an interview “This initiative is nothing new in a foreign country. For example, Russian media already totally banned the usage of foreign languages in television and newspapers.” He said “in Russia, Russian is the most elegant and the purest langue to every citizen. The Strong national pride also let them to refuse foreign languages to appear in various media. This is to protect the purity of the national language, to maintain consistency of the media expressions.” As for the change in Chinese media, he thinks it always plays the same role.

However when the news broke out, most people thought this regulation was outrageous and ridiculous. “Are those experts from Beijing? maybe related to the earthquake couple days ago? Their brain got damaged?”  Some made jokes about how life will be without abbreviations.

“I doomed, my cell phone is LG, service is CDMA, I don’t know how to say it. who can help me…”

“LG is Lucky Gold Star,  CDMA is Code Division Multiple Access, next time when people ask you, you say I use a Lucky Gold Star cell phone, and the service is Code Division Multiple Access” (Its funnier in Chinese)

Some made fun of the irony and the double standard “If insisting on blocking, it should treat everything equally, ‘CCTV’ is an abbreviation of ‘China Central Television’ (中国中央电视台). Shouldn’t (the usage of) CCTV be blocked too?”


Most supported comments on QQ:

QQ 佛山市网友 undefeated 2010-04-06 17:26:04

Why does it feel more and more like North Korea?

QQ 問乾坤 2010-04-06 17:40:53

The existing social class conflict has become the conflict between the officials’ declining intelligence and the public’s growing intelligence.

QQ 深圳市网友 白杨 2010-04-06 17:39:24

I know what NBA is but I don’t know what CCTV is!!!

QQ 保定市网友 8437165 2010-04-06 17:38:35

This is good, what Chinese common people do not understand should long have been corrected. What is GDP, the rural people do not know what it is; using Chinese can make it clear. Why must we use the English abbreviation, Chinese has plenty of words to make it clear.

QQ 宜春市网友 哆啦美 2010-04-06 17:29:56

In General, this stuff are some people sitting in the office and come up with in a whim, and then let others to put in practice.

QQ 深圳市网友 白杨 2010-04-06 17:42:00

Strongly recommend that first block (the use of) CCTV!

QQ 北京市网友 馨格格 2010-04-06 17:39:47

Huashang News – Jiang Debin, “Everyone knows CCTV, how many people know NBA, F1, GDP, CPI and CBA etc. so called abbreviations?” Especially your grandpas and grandmas!!! Why are you pretending to be a grandson? You grew up by drinking your mom’s milk or by eating shit, inhuman!!!

QQ 网友 657262993 2010-04-06 17:41:50

The force of harmony Broadcasting, agonizing, now the freedom of speech practically non-existent, if the country is not satisfied with you, you will be harmonize.

QQ 贺州市网友 永不孤独 2010-04-06 17:39:47

CCTV and other media have received a notice issued by the relevant department, in broadcasting, reporter’s interviews and subtitles must not use foreign languages and their abbreviations, for example GDP, WTO, CPI, etc.

Look at our leaders of relevant department, the words he doesn’t understand, and asks everyone to learn together publicly

  1. Many countries do this but it’s more or less voluntary. I think very few countries actually ban it but some governments encourage the media to use national translations. The things is that in a country like China that doesn’t use letters to write it’s language abbreviations is damn near impossible. I’ll be damned if I am ever going to say 美国职业篮球联赛 instead of NBA here. I suspect a change of name for CCTV coming up soon. One more thing: Many of the mentioned abbs are actually registered brands and I imagine the owners of the NBA, the F1 and others will be pretty darn pissed off if they can’t market their billion dollar brands in China. China is already WAY over the line in translating everything foreign. They wanted Canton changed to Guangzhou and Peking to Beijing and they were crying like whipped kids over it for years. They got their way fine but when it comes to using the real foreign names? NO WAY. We still have to change everything to fit China. “Fulanku Libeli scores a brilliant goal” No he fucking didn’t. FRANCK RIBERY scored the goal.

  2. Uh, China is becoming all “French” about language on television. Too bad, in “5000 years” they didn’t manage to come up with a phonetic alphabet. How about using Pinyin abbreviations… MZLL (Meiguo Zhiye Lanqiu Liansai)… Get is copyrighted, before the NBA does! xD

    GuoBao, re: Peking becoming Beijing -> Read up on “Wade-Giles” and “Pinyin”. Just a suggestion.

  3. That’s funny because where I come from abbreviations and acronyms are drilled in school more than spelling, and grammar. And to use these in a conversation make you seem like you know what you are talking about and saves allot of time getting you point across. But I guess this is another form of education for the masses. It makes sure everyone is on the same page. Nothing really wrong with it just a burden for reporters and documentaries on china TV.

  4. hey where is the burnt up Oriental hotel that is supposed to sitting next to the CCTV building?

  5. They translate those footballers’ names because it is better to communicate among most Chinese football fans a good number of which cannot speak English. We don’t have a problem with Jacky Chan being called Jacky Chan instead of Cheng Long overseas. However I prefer those HK’s translation on that matter, they tend to be more brief and interesting like Beckham is “bik1 haam4” for Cantonese, but “bei ke han mu” for Mandarin speakers

    1. Would have been so much better with Xabi Alonso being referred to by his given name. And the correct Spanish pronunciation is almost exactly like,, well you know.

    2. Hmmm…We don’t have a problem with Jackie Chan being called so because that is a name chosen by himself. He actually has gone by several different names throughout his life and Cheng Long is merely one of them.
      I agree that there is a matter of trademark involved here, but isn’t the root of this xenophobia, the fear that foreign names and alphabets corrupt the purity of Zhongwen? I also questioned the parallel with the Russian language. “in Russia, Russian is the most elegant and the purest langue to every citizen.” I think a more fitting analogy is the purging of Chinese characters by the North Korean regime. Purity in all things is big there.

  6. Everyone seems missing the bigger picture here. The English abbreviations people talked in this article are only a small number of words used in finance, sports and entertainment, and they only appear in China in recent years. The majority of translated foreign words, which are in science and technology, have already been Sinicized and regulated. I remember maxiewawa wrote a good article about Chinese translations in this area, that most of the translated words are actually easy to understand and remember:

    For example, ‘Light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation’, which is abbred as Laser, is translated as 激光.

    For the words we are talking here, the problem could be easily solved by using more Chinese abbreviations.

    NBA -> 美国职业篮球联赛 -> 美篮联 or 美篮协
    CBA -> 中国篮球协会 -> 篮协 (which is already in use)
    CCTV -> 中国中央电视台 -> 央视 (which is already in use)
    F1 -> 一级方程式赛车锦标赛 -> 一级方程赛 (not as short as ‘F1’ though. already in use)
    LG -> 樂喜金星集團 (which is the formal Chinese name in Korea) -> 乐金 (from wiki)
    CMDA -> 分码多重进接 -> 码分多址 (which is actually a one-to-one translation)
    CPI -> 消費者物價指數 -> 消指
    GDP -> 國內生產總值 -> 國總產
    WTO -> 世界貿易組織 -> 世貿 (which is already in use)
    Beckham -> 贝克汉姆 -> 小贝 (which is already in use)

    However, I agree that it will be interesting to see what CCTV will do to its own English abbreviation. 嘻嘻踢威? 🙂

    1. One thing to add:

      Maybe I shouldn’t include CBA and CCTV in the list since the Chinese words came before the English words and their abbreviations. BTW, 中国中央电视台 used to be called 中央台 in short, before it’s replaced by the funky 央视 🙂

  7. I don’t know if Russia is a good country to model yourself after, unless you want your economy to fail and have your subways bombed.

  8. Which alternative universe does that picture of the CCTV building come from? The air is clear and the freeway’s empty!

  9. ALL english abbreviations or just the ones chinese people don’t understand? Almost all chinese TV stations are abbreviated using english letters.

    Beijing TV – BTV
    Hunan TV- HTV
    Guangdong TV – GDTV


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