COE or Chinese Ordered English is a term I only discovered about three nights before on Wikipedia. (I found it when I browsed the web instead of finishing my blog post which, at the time dealt with another topic entirely.)
This “technique” is one I’ve been consciously, purposely and subconsciously using on an off ever since I started learning Mandarin. In fact my old Mandarin course books always indicated this type of direct translation alongside the “normal” English translation. (My text books never actually mentioned anything about COE and it never explicitly made it into a “thing” – it was just given as a way I guess to get familiar with Mandarin sentence structure.)
When you’re learning Mandarin and you’re applying COE, it essentially means you let your good English grammar fly out the window and you get all down and dirty and really translate a Mandarin sentence very directly – or as directly as you can into English. It’s a great way to get a feel for Mandarin sentences and structure and in my humble opinion is probably one of the best ways to do this. (Actually not sure how I would have tackled Mandarin had I not used such a method in the first instance.)
This Wikipedia article on Chinese-Ordered English has its own example sentence to illustrate the concept but I like to use my own – a sentence that at one point at least a few years ago in my life had been true and applied to my life, so I was happy to figure this sentence out back then:
Pinyin: Wǒ měi tiān zài bàngōngshì chī zǎofàn
COE: I every day at the office each breakfast
English: I eat breakfast at the office every day.
(As an aside: The logic in Chinese is that you first have to be at the place before you can complete the action. Time words too are also placed at the beginning of a sentence instead of at the end.)
Below are a few examples that illustrate COE in action (with my comments off course):
I know little about New Zealand’s affairs.
Wǒ duì xīnxīlán de shìqíng zhīdào yīdiǎn
COE: I toward New Zealand de matters know a little.
My Mandarin is not as good as your English.
Wǒ de zhōngwén méiyǒu nǐ de yīngwén hǎo
COE: My Chinese not has your de English good.
I don’t agree with you.
Wǒ bù tóngyì nǐ
COE: I not agree you.
(My language exchange partner gave me this sentence but I am often tempted to say ‘Wǒ bù gēn nǐ tóngyì / 我不跟你同意) – it feels right to me but I’m not sure if this is actually correct. If you can shed light on this one please do…)
My house is close to that restaurant.
Wǒ jiā zài nàgè fànguǎn fùjìn
COE: My house at that restaurant nearby / vicinity.
What are you interested in?
Nǐ duì shénme yǒu xìngqù?
COE: You toward what have interest?
He goes to Taipei for business by airplane.
Tā zuò fēijī dào táiběi qù zuò shēngyì
COE: He sit airplane to Taipei go do business.
(Once again the logic is that first you get on the airplane then you go the country and then you do can do your business.)
Where do I get off ?
Zài nàlǐ xià chē?
COE: At where off car?
There are people in the room.
Wūzi li yǒu rén
COE: Room inside has people
There is a chair behind me.
Wǒ hòumiàn yǒu yǐzi
COE: My behind has chair.
This one is funny – cause if you literally translate it, it’s like this – ‘my behind has chair’ – except that my behind does not have a chair on it, neither is my behind actually on the chair. It just means there’s a chair behind me.
I want to drink (a cup of) coffee.
Wǒ xiǎng hē yībēi kāfēi
COE: I wish drink one cup / a cup coffee.
Hopefully your understanding and grammar of the English language remains intact after all of that…
If you’re not using COE – then by all means let me know why not and how you’re coping, cause I VERY like Chinese-Ordered English.
I can’t quite imagine studying Mandarin any other way, i.e without applying COE. So share with me your thoughts if you wish