Project Proposal

I have to admit, I still haven’t nailed down all the details for this project. It’s proving difficult (at least, for me and my sub-par researching skills) to find much background information on my topic, and I’m not entirely sure of what the best way to collect information during the ethnographic research portion of this project is. Still, here is my plan so far.

Unknown-3What I want to study is modern slang among young Chinese people. Specifically, I’d like to see what affect (if any) increased exposure to the English language has had on Chinese slang since China has become more globalized, especially through the internet. (One thing that I have been able to learn in my preliminary research and my conversation with Fang Jun is that slang is most often used, and most slang terms arise, in online communication.) Are there any common slang terms that have developed from English words? Does English have more of an effect on words relating to a particular topic? How is today’s slang different from that before the rise of the internet? In what contexts are these words used?

Obviously, my data collection is going to rely chiefly on talking to people in a relatively casual context. And since I’m specifically studying the effect of English on the language, it might make sense to go to places that themselves have a Western influence: Western chains like Starbucks or McDonald’s, perhaps, or maybe movie theaters or clubs? Or, since slang is so prevalent online, perhaps I could visit an internet cafe.

Once I’ve found a location, it’ll be time to start talking to people! (This will be especially challenging for me. I have trouble approaching and talking to new people in my own home country and mother tongue; I’m a bit anxious about trying to talk to strangers in a foreign language…) I think it will be beneficial to conduct both structured interviews as well as just having casual conversations. An interview makes the environment seem more formal and may deter the actual use of slang terms. Also, different conversations could illicit different responses and different types of data: casual conversations are more likely to provide examples of actual use of slang terms, whereas the interviews will require the interviewee to actively think and reflect on their own slang usage. In any case, all conversations will be recorded so I can go back and review them as needed. In addition to young people using current slang, I may also try to speak to some older people about slang terms they used when they were younger which have since fallen out of use, in order to provide a basis of comparison for modern terms and see if there is any evidence of greater English influence on the newer terms.

Overall, I’m pretty nervous about this project, but really excited as well. Slang has always been an interesting topic to me, as the most rapidly changing part of a language, but I’ve never really thought before how one language could influence the slang of another. Plus, slang and colloquialisms are an integral part of a language, but one that you can’t really learn in the classroom. Hopefully when I come home in August I’ll have a few new choice phrases I can use!