150-Year-Old Book Shows People Studied Chinglish During Qing Dynasty

By Bridget O'Donnell, November 11, 2016

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A recently unearthed Qing dynasty-era textbook shows that Chinese people tried to learn English at least 150 years ago.

The textbook, unveiled by a Chengdu-based collector surnamed Yao, was evidently used to teach Chinese people how to speak English sometime during the late Qing dynasty (1644-1911). 

A note printed on the inside of the book read "Emperor Xianfeng's 10th year of reign," which indicated that it was printed around 1860. Yao told Chengdu Business Daily that he found it in a pile of books at a market 78 years ago.

Here are some of the more, er, useful phrases that can be found in the book:

  • "You want cheap go buy other man."

  • "You can add more price."

  • "Truly you pay price very few."

  • "This affair have mistake."

  • "Why you not make profit."

  • "This is not good man."

  • "Tomorrow I give you answer."

  • "Very much this silk."

  • "If your cargo, want change cargo can do."

  • "Don't stop half way and fail."

  • "Don't answer at random."

Above each English phrase was the Chinese meaning. Underneath the English was a combination of basically nonsense characters that was intended to help readers pronounce the phrase phonetically. 

150-Year-Old Textbook Shows People Learned Chinglish During Qing Dynasty

The format is actually pretty similar to those amazing English phrasebooks that were handed out to Hangzhou residents ahead of the G20 Summit just this past September:

G20 English Guide

How far we've come in 150 years.

[Images via Global Times]

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