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Non-English lingua franca? Mobility, market and ideologies of the Chinese language in Nepal

Bal Krishna SharmaORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2365-3253
Published Online: 2018-03-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2018-0004


As China’s economy continues to grow, making it the largest economy in the world, there’s a noticeable boost in its outbound tourism. As a result, the importance of Mandarin Chinese as a lingua franca is growing in many tourism contexts around the world. The number of and need for multilingual tourism workers who can speak Chinese is growing. In this article, I discuss ideologies of the Chinese language in the context of Nepal’s tourism and related businesses. I present findings from interviews with learners and users of Chinese in Nepal who come from multiple domains of language work such as tour guides, hoteliers, vendors, and business people. I complement the analysis with ethnographic observations of public linguistic signage from major tourist destinations in Kathmandu. I organize the findings into three key themes: (1) the commodity value of Chinese for Nepalis in order to achieve economic gains, (2) the increasing symbolic power of the Chinese language as an international lingua franca, and (3) the value of the Chinese language for intercultural understanding between the people of these two countries. While articulating these complex language ideologies, Nepalis portray Chinese as non-English speakers and, by the same token, position themselves as competent speakers of the English language. The findings as a whole highlight the power, prestige and commodity value of Chinese in Nepal, regimenting another lingua franca alongside English in international tourism contexts.


中国经济的发展已促使其成为当今世界最大的经济体,这也刺激了中国境外游的热潮。汉语也因此逐渐成为世界各地的旅游语境中的一个重要的国际通用语。观光业对于能说汉语的多语言人才的需求也在持续增加。本文探讨尼泊尔观光旅行业从业人员的汉语语言意识(language ideologies)。研究材料来自与尼泊尔汉语学习者与使用者的访谈,受访者含括导游,旅馆业者与小贩商人等。此外,分析亦加入了作者在加德满都的民族志经验以及观光胜地等场域所观察到的语言标志作为研究的辅助材料。结果显示,对汉语的语言意识可归为三大主题:(一)尼泊尔旅游业从业人员对汉语的商业价值的意识;(二)将汉语视为国际通用语的符号资本(symbolic capital)的意识;(三)视汉语为沟通尼中两国跨文化理解最佳途径的意识。这些语言意识表明尼泊尔人视中国观光客为非英语使用者,进而认定汉语作为新兴国际通用语,与英语具有同等地位。 总地来说,研究结果突显汉语在尼泊尔的象征优势,声望(prestige)与商用价值。并佐证在观光文化语境中,汉语俨然已成为英语之外的另一国际通用语。

Keywords: Nepal; commodification; global language; language ideology; tourism

关键字:: 尼泊尔; 商品化; 国际语; 语言意识; 观光


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About the article

Published Online: 2018-03-28

Published in Print: 2018-03-26

Citation Information: Global Chinese, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 63–88, ISSN (Online) 2199-4382, ISSN (Print) 2199-4374, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/glochi-2018-0004.

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