Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
Chapter One Introduction
1.1 Background of Study
Polite language obey the principle of politeness and belong to study of pragmatics and pragmatic ability is major standard to measure foreign language results. But there are always lots of mistakes exist in the use of foreign language, and by analyzing we found that the major reason is the percentage of grammar and vocabulary is much more than the cultivation of ability of using foreign language in foreign language study. Maybe someone has good knowledge of grammar and vocabulary but lots of questions will occur when he using foreign language to talk. And always, the mistake of grammar is easily to forgive but impolite expressing way is not easily to forgive, and even will be considered as a question of character. Therefore it is very important to study politeness language, especially for Chinese. To the accompaniment of development of international commerce, Chinese and English have more and more communication, thus the historical background give us more opportunity and chance to improve our language ability. Polite language is a kind of pragmatic expression, it is helpful to learn about culture by studying politeness language. China as delegate of oriental culture, in a certain degree the polite language thereof reflect profound meaning of Chinese culture. Chinese set store by “politeness” since ancient time, they are in pursuit of giving honor to both sides of others and themselves. Nowadays Chinese is gradually used all over the world and thus how to help foreigners using Chinese has became more and more important. Meanwhile the English has most common use in communication, thus it is very important for Chinese to learn the difference between language in Chinese and English and then use foreign language well.
1.2 Significance of Study
Because of cultural obstacle, we may frequently find that people misunderstand information each other, even hurt the other side in intercultural communication. Sometimes, kind words will make people feel embarrassed, courteous manners will be misunderstood as absurd and vulgar behaviors. Therefore, studying cultural differences and the correct intercultural communication manners is essential. The study of polite language has following positive meanings: First it is helpful to intercultural communication. When studying a language it is necessary to study its culture and the objective of studying language is to communicate. We should build equal cultural opinion and respect and understand foreign culture, and learn about like and tabu of foreign language. And for people in business occasion can have better communication. Second, it has meaning for pragmatics study, principle of politeness is propounded on basis of co-operative principle and is also one principle of pragmatic language conduct. And in this article we will compare the difference between Chinese and English and thus analyze the reason thereof to help better communication in dairy life and business occasion.
Chapter Two Principle of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
2.1 Politeness principle of English language culture
How can we obtain the best result in communication? It depends on reasonable use of language, especially the politeness language. Therefore, understandability and use of polite language is very important for us. Then how to understand and use polite language right? We can find some suggestions in some articles. In the article <Principles of Pragmatics> the author Leech summarized the following six items of politeness principle: First, tact maxim, it suggests reducing others’ disadvantageousness and increasing others’ advantageousness; second, generosity maxim, it is adverse to tact maxim and suggests reducing your own advantageousness and increasing your own disadvantageousness; third, approbation maxim, it suggests speaking well of others instead of running down others; fourth, modesty maxim, it is adverse to approbation maxim and suggests running down your own instead of speaking well of your own; fifth, agreement maxim, it suggests avoiding disagreement between both sides and increasing agreement between both sides; sixth, sympathy maxim, it suggests avoiding dislike between both sides and increasing sympathy between both sides. The principles mentioned above was suggested according to cultural background of English language. In a word his suggestion on principles of language is under same circumstance, reducing impolite expression to lowest limit and increasing polite expression to highest limit. Beside, Leech thinks that polite expression is closely related to cultural ground and under difficult cultural background the importance of above items of principles is not same.
2.2 Politeness principle of Chinese language culture
On the basis of Leech’s <Principles of Pragmatics> Chinese writer Mr. Gu Yueguo summarized five items of Chinese cultural politeness principles. The first principle is criticism of your own and respect of others, this principle reflects the most feather of Chinese politeness namely “modesty and respect others” and it means that be modest on aspect of things related to your own, however, be respectful to others and things related to others. The second principle is about appellation, in China basis on politeness people always call others as per traditional “up and down, wealth or poor, and age” etc, and interpersonal communication relationship always shown on the appellation. The greeting is always defined as first mode to communicate and appellation is an important factor in greeting, it shows the social relationship between people. The third principle is gentlemanly principle, it suggests that people should speak gently, use gentle words instead of strong language, use euphemism instead of speaking in a forthright manner, especially when mention unhappy things i.e. death, incurable disease, appearance, crime etc. Using gentlemanly principle is help to show one’s fine breeding. The fourth principle is agreement principle, it suggests people paying attention to the identity and position of both sides and to keep opinion of both sides being in accord. When under some circumstance that you have to criticize others or express your different opinion, you should “first ceremony after soldiers”, “first praise after criticism” to give enough honor to others. When you are invited, asked or given, you should also “give honor” to keep agreement. The fifth principle is morality, word and deed principle, it suggests that under action motivation basis should reduce others’ disadvantageousness and increase others’ advantageousness and on aspect of word and deed should try to exaggerate the advantageousness that others gave you and do not mention too much about the price you paid. For the five principles mentioned above the first principle is outstanding feather of Chinese politeness and also an phenomenon which is full of China cultural feather.
Chapter Three Comparison of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
3.1 Comparison of Appellation of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
3.1.1 Appellation of Chinese Polite Language in Business Occasion
What is appellation? In <Modern Chinese Dictionary> it illustrates that the “appellation” is “name from relative relationship or other relationships and identity, procession”. Appellation is bridge and signal used to communicate relationship in dairy life, on one hand it can reflect social relationship and social position of speakers, and on the other hand it can express the thoughts and feelings of speakers. Using suitable appellation is important condition to keep word communication run rightly, contrariwise, unsuitable appellation may lead to lots of all kinds of troubles occurred in communication. Due to social structure, blood relationship and other differences between Chinese and English, there are lots of obvious differences exist in the use of appellation in English and Chinese. Appellation always including two kinds namely relative appellation and social appellation. For relative appellation, the Chinese relative appellation suggests “position in the family hierarchy”, thus it is easy to indicate identity thereof from Chinese relative appellation, for example, maternal uncle and elder uncle are attributed to father elder; younger brother, elder brother, younger sister, elder sister are attributed to compeer; paternal aunt and maternal aunt are attributed to patriline and matriline, respectively; and so on.
3.1.2 Appellation of English Polite Language in Business Occasion
The English relative appellation is not as clear as Chinese relative appellation, a word always has several meanings, for example, uncle may be younger brother or elder brother, it is unrelated to year old, patriline or matriline; and the cousin also not related year old, gender, patriline or matriline, including maternal younger brother, maternal elder brother, maternal younger sister, maternal elder sister, paternal younger brother, paternal elder brother, paternal younger sister, paternal elder sister, and so on. Family appellation in Chinese always strictly as per “politeness of up and down, order of younger and elder”, but western people do not care “position in the family hierarchy” so much, they would rather call one’s name directly to show kind. This phenomenon sufficiently shows their equal cultural direction, but in China it will be defined as not familiar with the ways of the world and short of breeding. For social appellation, in Chinese if only one have title, it basically could be used as appellation, for instance, Zhang section chief, Wang doctor, Li teacher, and so on. But in English the title appellation only suitable for royalty, government official, law, religion, and military circles, for instance, President Obama, Judge Mark and so on; and common professional title appellation are only limited in Professor and Doctor. The common use appellation “teacher” is not allowed to directly call “teacher”, instead of, in lots of western school, they always use “Mr”, “Miss” to call “teacher”, such as “Mr Green”, “Miss White” and so on. In additional, there are some special appellation, honorific appellation and modest appellation, modest appellation such as call oneself as “zai xia”, “bi ren”; call family as “my father”, “my mother”, or “jian nei”, “quan zi” and so on; and honorific appellation such as “ling zun”, “ling lang”, “ling tang” and so on. All these honorific and modest appellation reflect Chinese special communication attitude, but it is difficult to find corresponding appellation in English. Besides, there is also one special phenomenon that Chinese like to use relative appellation to call other similar people who is not family or when see somebody for the first time, Chinese use relative appellation to show politeness and close relationship, but it is always confused for people of other English countries.
3.2 Comparison of Introduction of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
3.2.1 In English Culture People Like to Introduce by Oneself At the First Sight
When two person meet first time always need to introduce by themselves or by others, and then the two person know each other. The introduction language is very important to two strangers and is a basis to their further communication. The following content mainly talk about the difference between Chinese and English introduction language by two aspects of introduction by oneself and by others. In English culture people like to introduce by oneself at the first sight, they think if they want to know others or know others’ name the best way is to introduce, and then let others introduce too. Therefore when two strangers meet in first time they will directly say “Hello! My name is...”. This is their politeness and habit, westerners think ask others first but without self introduction is impolite and difficult to continue talking, or they will think you are not a confidential person cause you even dare to say your own name and identity. Compare to westerners, Chinese is in a much more implicit style, they always introduce only under circumstance that they know others, and in general social place Chinese fell into the habit of asking other side’s name, job and other information when meet in the first sight.
3.2.2 Chinese always Use Honorific Language to Show Their Politeness
Chinese always use honorific language to show their politeness, such as “How to call you, please?”, “What is your surname, please?” etc. If other side do not ask them, they will not say their name. In external business lots of person do not know the differences between Chinese and English culture and just use their own way translating other countries’ word and thus cause several mistakes. For introduction, westerners generally think should introduce one side to other much more respect side, and there is also someone think should mention the more respect side first, therefore introduction order in western is generally as follows: introduce male to female; introduce younger side to elder side in same gender situation; introduce single female to married female; introduce one side to more important side in same gender situation; introduce children to adults. And introduction order in Chinese is just opposite and have no gender difference, general order as follows: introduce elder side to younger side; introduce eldership to junior; introduce one side of higher position to other side of lower position. To the accompaniment of social development, both Chinese and English do not pay particukar attention to the introduction order like before.
3.3 Comparison of Banqueting of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
3.3.1 English Culture Countries Uphold Freedom in Banquet
Banqueting is necessary politesse in dairy communication, good banquet method is helpful improve motion and build good relationship. Receive guests as a polite method is common among countries, however banquet method in different cultural background is always different. English culture countries uphold freedom and they suggest being one's own master in banquet. Westerners request freedom and is unaccustomed to be limited by complex politesse, therefore they always choose buffet dinner or half buffet dinner method. Banquet is easy and westerners pay more attention to the mood of dining and they always define dining together as an opportunity to communicate idea and motion, so the dish is also easy even sometimes they ask guests taking some dishes to eat together. Generally, host does not urge the guests to drink or eat, guests will help themselves and will try their best to eat up to show polite. In host’s opinion, guests eat up dishes is best approval, it illustrates that the dishes they prepared show its value.
3.3.2 Chinese Pay Particular Attention to Honor and Occasion of Banquet
The habit of banquet in Chinese is much different from that of English. Chinese pay particular attention to honor and occasion of banquet, guests always seat around table and the table is full of all kinds of dishes, more than ten kinds of dishes is very common situation. Hosts urge the guests to drink or eat for several times, and they will pick dishes for guests and add drink to show their passion and circumspection. Although the dishes and drinks are abundant, however the “modest” Chinese host will say “I do not prepare some yummy food, eat more”. While in English culture even if very sample dishes, host will also say enthusiastically that “This is carefully prepared for you, please try”. English think they need to show their sincerity and respect by this kind of way. And for English it is difficult to understand Chinese’s “modest word”, they do not know why Chinese say that kind of “false” for a full table of delicious dishes.
3.4 Comparison of Presenting Thanks, and Compliment of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
3.4.1 Presenting of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
There are obvious difference on giving present between Chinese and English. Although there “The gift itself may be small, but the goodwill is deep.” since ancient China but in fact, Chinese always think that much deeper present can show much better wishes and respect, value of present is direct proportion with motion between both sides. However, even if very deep present, Chinese also used to say holiday words like “small regard, please kindly accept” and so on. English always could not understand these kinds of word, “if it is not a good present, why do you give to me?”. Different from Chinese, English do not care the value of presents, they think the meaning involved is much more important, so even if a card, a hank of flower will also welcomed and loved. However, even if a small present, English will tell his regard and affection on why choosing the present and he hopes that you can like the present too. When receiving presents, Chinese and English have different ways. Chinese used to decline first, they will say like “I accept your regard but I can not receive your present”. When receiving presents, Chinese always use double hands to show politeness, and then put on one side, and open it till guests left. This kind of conduct always lead to English’s misunderstanding, they will think that you do not open this present cause you do not like it. Under same situation westerners like to receive present with thanks and they always open it immediately and then express their affection to you. But this kind of conduct is considered as impolite conduct in Chinese opinion.
3.4.2 Thanks of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
Thankful language is meaning of a kind of approval, thanks and appreciation for others’ help, is also a kind of common polite conduct to match up communication and is common in all kinds of languages and cultures, but due to different cultures the thankful language in Chinese and English have some differences. Westerners always think that Chinese is closefisted in expressing thanks and fishlike to others’ thanks, this kind of conduct is out of principle of politeness. There are mainly three kinds of misunderstanding from English to Chinese: The first, no thanks when should say, such as westerners think that it is polite and necessary to say thanks to waitress for their service, to say thanks to mother’s breakfast and to say thanks to friends’ suggestions. But most Chinese think that all the things mentioned above are common so they ignored to say thanks. The second, exaggerated thanks. They think Chinese always say exaggerated thanks, like some fictitious words. The third, Chinese always do not answer others’ thanks or answer as a cold way, such as saying that they have to do like that, such as “this is what I should do”. Above misunderstandings are born of difference between Chinese and English culture. Words showing thanks in Chinese is much more than that in English. There are mainly two kinds of way to show thanks in both English and Chinese, namely direct way and indirect way. In English “thanks” and “thank you” are very widely used and also used in occasion of receiving others’ service, praise and help. Sometimes the “thank you” is not after receiving help, but just a habit of westerners, when students hand homework they will say “thank you”, when leaders arrange new works they will say “thank you” and so on. At the present time say “thank you” is gradually received by diplomatic sources and high-quality population. But as per Chinese tradition it is not necessary to say “thank you” for pure work responsible, and it is not necessary to say “thank you” for friends’ small help. In Chinese culture people always only use direct thanks to show their full gratitude. Compare to direct thanks the indirect thanks is pretty weak in English. Westerners used to by admiring others to show their happiness. There are two kinds of common sentence “you are so kind/nice to have done...” and “I am glad that you have done...”. In Chinese culture indirect thanks are widely common, and can by apologizing to show thanks, such as “I am sorry to trouble you ” and so on; and can by caring to show thanks, such as “you are toilsome”; and also can by expressing resolution to show thanks, such as “set your heart at rest, I must/promise...”; and also someone choose to show thanks in direct way, such as “you are such a good person”.
3.4.3 Compliment of Chinese and English Polite Language in Business Occasion
Generally, compliment is a kind of praise and commend to others’ rare quality, superior ability, suitable behavior and beautiful appearance. Its social meaning is to maintain and harmonize human relation, a suitable compliment can shorten the distance of people and build or revise a relationship cause most of people want to accept others’ approval. But there is one point need to keep one's eyes open, namely the compliment is different from insincere greasiness. Main purpose of compliment is to express speaker’s good wish thus to improve and strengthen the relationship of speaker and listener. A survey on compliment shows that there are mainly three kinds of sentence structures of compliment in English, the widest use is “I like/love something/someone”, the second is “something/someone is/looks adj.(i.e. good)”, the third is “That’s a adj. (i.e. good) something/someone”. The beginning of compliment always show speaker’s subjective attitude, thus lots of sentences are started as “I”, such as “I like your tie”. Listener will happy cause their taste is approved by others. But when Chinese hear this sentence, it threatens their positive honor, they will think if you want his tie and should he give his tie to you, thus lead to embarrassed situation. In Chinese culture is necessary to be care when expressing your love of something, it may be not a compliment but a embarrassed one. Chinese compliment always using commendatory adj. or adv, common sentence is: 你 V. 得 adj. (真) adj. Such as “你说得真好”. We can know that most of Chinese compliments are started as “You” which is different from “I” as beginning in English. This difference is caused by different think of Chinese and English, Chinese think give prominence to oneself is a kind of pride and panache, it breaches traditional Chinese opinion; but English think everyone has own value and realize and approve self value is nature thing.
Chapter Four Analysis of Reason of Differences of Chinese and English Polite Language
4.1 Different Understanding on Habit
Using polite language is defined as a kind of social phenomenon, a kind of communication tactics. Different cultural values lead to different politeness, therefore we should consider culture factors to analyze polite language. we mainly studied the differences from four aspects of reasons. The first, Chinese and English have different understanding on habit, such as modesty. The modesty in Chinese and English both have meaning of estimating own ability and value, but cultural differences thereof are obvious. We all can think that modesty is an effective mode to show polite, but people live in different cultural background have big different sights on modesty. Modesty in Chinese and English culture have different connotations. Modesty in Chinese culture means playing down oneself and running up others, and in English culture the modesty only means do not puff oneself to avoid collision in communication. Modesty is also a very important part in Chinese culture, while western do not care it. In Chinese culture people consider modesty as requirement of behavior, and they think it is very necessary to be modest in dairy life and always using perfect morality to require their selves. Chinese always say no modestly to outside praise or compliment, and this kind of conduct always induce westerners’ dislike. And western people always think that praise is sincere and is a kind of approval to one’s ability therefore they won’t pretend to be modest or say no.
4.2 Different Understanding of Morality
The second difference is caused by different understanding of morality, such as privacy. The privacy in English culture is much more important than that of Chinese, and two countries have very different understanding on privacy. In Chinese culture some polite conducts may be considered as impolite conduct even offend others’ privacy by English. Chinese thinks that emotion of people is very important thus taking care of others is reasonable conduct, they always talk about each others’ age, work, marriage and so on in initial cognition. They think by talking about the questions mentioned above can shorten their distance and helpful to keep good relationship. But this kind of notion is contrary to to the privacy idea in English culture. English have strong privacy idea, an easy greeting “where are you?” also has possibility to offend their privacy, if they are care about some words they always say “it does not matter to you ”. For all that, it does not mean that Chinese do not have privacy idea, merely their privacy idea range is smaller, and more parts are involved to some bad things which damage one’s honor and self pride. In Chinese culture, people have stronger collective privacy idea, even stronger than individual privacy idea, and they hope others can take more care of themselves.
4.3 Different Understanding of Thinking
The third difference is caused by different understanding of thinking, such as order of younger and elder people. Relationship in English culture is freedom and close. But China is always a society using right and position as guidance. Some sociolinguists once indicated that “close” is not only representation of equality and freedom of both sides, it also an expression of wish to built equal and close relationship, and both sides have common interests and friends and so on. Occident society is a society people enjoying equality and freedom, close is caused by equal position, it is shown on their appellation, different position of people can call others’ name directly, one child is allowed to call his or her parents’ name directly, and this conduct is not defined as impolite conduct but a close conduct. The question of social position and distance between people reflected by this close conduct influences the thought of politeness and choose of polite language.
4.4 Different Understanding of Sense of Worth
The fourth difference is caused by different understanding of sense of worth, feather of English culture is individualism, feather of Chinese culture is collectivism, English is in pursuit of individual autonomy and Chinese is in pursuit of harmonious society. This point can shown from difference between of Chinese and English polite language., especially shown from asking and refusal language, Chinese think direct refusal is impolite so they also choose an euphemistic way, but English do not think refusal is impolite and they always refuse directly.
Chapter Five Summary
At present, we are in the time of across-culture, the appropriate words and deeds are playing a decisive role in achieving successful communication. To be polite is an important part of communication，especially when we talk to others. Most people know instinctively how to deal with others in the same culture with their native language. When speaking another language, especially in a different culture, one should be aware of the different meanings of the same words. The intercultural communication is not only important in people’s communication, but also essential in tourism and business. Angelena Boden wrote in her book, “From the visitor’s viewpoint, the benefit of cultural awareness makes them receives a positive first impression, feels more relaxed, senses a feeling of warmth, sees company as being enlightened, encouraged to do business again. likely to recommend company to others, and from the business’s viewpoint, Businesses that are culturally aware set themselves apart from their competitors by: Finding out about their foreign client; their likes, dislikes and expectations, equipping their key staff, especially front and some ground rules for looking after them, avoiding giving offence to their visitor through ignorance or assumptions.”. From this quotation, we can know the importance of across-communication. We communicate by speaking, so learning polite language is very important. Politeness is a kind of social phenomenon. Polite language just like a lube to help relationship and communication. Polite language is considered as a kind of way to obtain friendly relationship. Polite language has close relation with values, social habit and other cultural factor. Therefore under different cultural background we should use different principles to measure polite language. Polite language is a very important and necessary part of successful communication and as a kind of philological phenomenon it is also a part of culture. By above comparison and analysis we could find that the differences of Chinese and English polite language are mainly reflected in the differences from their concept of polite language, it is very closed to their cultural value, and therefore we must use polite language right to obtain successful communication. Each country has its own special principle of politeness, communication between people in different cultural background should have fairly accordant principle to avoid misunderstanding or conflict. Therefore it is worth to discuss the degree of common place of all kinds of polite principle. It is much important for international communication and business communication. And learn about the differences between Chinese and English polite language is helpful to master foreign language and also a good way to improve ability of communication. By above analysis we know that learn politeness principle is a good way to obtain successful communication in business occasion, and there are mainly six items of politeness principle in English, they are tact maxim, generosity maxim, approbation maxim, modesty maxim, agreement maxim and sympathy maxim, respectively. And there are also politeness principles apply to Chinese culture, they are summarized by Chinese writer Mr. Gu Yueguo on the basis of Leech’s <Principles of Pragmatics>, and the Chinese politeness principles include five items namely criticism of your own and respect of others, call others as per traditional “up and down, wealth or poor, and age”, gentlemanly principle, and agreement principle. For the five principles mentioned above the first principle is outstanding feather of Chinese politeness and also an phenomenon which is full of China cultural feather. In a word to better dairy and business communication it is necessary for us to learn more about the differences of Chinese and English polite language.