Crackdown on Chinglish

Here’s another crackdown that I can fully support:  one on the use of Chinglish in signs.  Chinglish is the common term used locally to refer to poorly translated English that can be found on everything from street signs to menus. One fun area where Chinglish pops up is in the translation of movie titles.  I remember years ago being asked by my students if I’d seen the movie "Good-bye Weapons." Huh!  A little back and forth for clarification revealed that he was referring to the movie "Farewell to Arms."  You can go here to read a previous post on one of my favorite chinglish signs: More Perils of Direct Translation

The government announced recently that it was launching a campaign to get rid of Chinglish in the run up to the Olympics.  Here’s the article from the Xinhua News Agency:


has launched a campaign to correct its "Chinglish", or Chinese-style
English, on bilingual signs as part of its make-over for the 2008
Olympic Games. The
Beijing Municipal Tourism Bureau has issued a regulation requiring
correct English signs as one of the most important criteria for unrated
hotels to qualify as official accommodation providers.  The
city has around 4,000 unrated hotels, which are competing for the right
to join star-rated hotels offering services for the Games.  The
regulation requires hotels to translate their names, service hours,
room rates, and notices for guests into accurate English. They should
also provide signs and menus in correct English.   "Chinglish"
was once prevalent in the city’s signs. For example, some hotels misuse
"scatter" for "evacuate" in their emergency information. Tobacco shops
still advertise the sale of "smoke" instead of cigarettes and the Park
of Ethnic Minorities is identified as the "Racist Park". Drivers are
warned of the hazards of a wet road with a sign that reads: "The
slippery are very crafty."   Foreigners are often confused or misled by these signs.  In
a bid to improve the city’s bilingual signs and teach the public basic
English, the Beijing Speaks to the World Committee, a non-governmental
linguistic organization established in 2002, is identifying and
correcting translation mistakes in shopping centers, hotels, parks,
buses, subways and even the airport.   Zhou
Chen, information officer with the committee, said the organization
this year released a set of standards on Chinese-English translation
for public signs, such as traffic and road name signs.   "The
committee will cooperate with Beijing Traffic Management Bureau to
review and improve bilingual road signs according to the Chinese to
English translation standards," Zhou said.

Not only are foreigners often misled and confused, they are amused. 

And stay tuned for an upcoming post on the dreadful things foreigners (like me) say when we don’t pay attention to tones while speaking Chinese.  It would be called "Engnese" I suppose!