The story appears on

Page A2

July 8, 2017

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Chinglish signs may be a thing of the past if talks of new rules prove to be true

HILARIOUSLY bad English signs may be a thing of the past by the end of the year, since the authorities are said to be clamping down on poor translations that have the potential to “damage the country’s image.”

We’ve all had a chuckle at some of the translations that somehow make it all the way to street signs, menus, advertisements and so on.

Some people even make documenting such translation faux pas a fulltime hobby, devoting entire websites to Chinglish signs and packaging in China.

Menus are a prime location for the hobby bad translation hunter, and one of the main culprits guaranteed to offer a laugh or two is anything “dry” (gan), which also happens to be a slang term for the F word. “F*** vegetables,” anyone?

It seems some people may need to find a new hobby from December 1 this year, though, if the talks turn out to be true.

Apparently authorities will be looking to tidy up translations in 13 public areas, including transportation, entertainment, medicine and financial services (no word on menus, fingers crossed!)

You might think that such poor translations are nothing more than a chance to have a giggle in an otherwise serious world, but apparently these errors can lead to “social issues” and hinder China from becoming a truly global and multilingual place.

From December 1, English translations will be required to conform to a new standard, which will prioritize correct grammar and spelling.

The use of rare expressions will be discouraged.

“Discriminatory and hurtful words have also been banned,” it has been reported. The Park of Ethnic Minorities, for example, was translated as Racist Park.

But what’s the problem? Apart from giving us something to laugh about, how bad can it be? Pretty bad, apparently — such translation faux pas can “damage the image of China or other countries.”

Wow, that’s serious!

I guess it really comes down to context.

If I’m in a small, neighborhood restaurant on a back street and they’ve made some attempt to translate their menu into English, but in the process end up offering me “Six Fried Husband,” it’s not going to cause a diplomatic incident.

If I’m in a mall and a sign says “Carefully Bump Head,” I’m probably just going to laugh at the perils involved with direct translation.

But to be perfectly honest, and without wanting to sound like a party pooper, I do get quite annoyed when I pay good money to enter a museum, for example, and the English translations are below par.

Or when I’m on a plane or on the subway and safety signs, hugely important in the case of emergency, are poorly translated.

I just feel like that level of public service or company really should do better in terms of translation, especially when it comes to helping keep people safe, and at the very least to maintain an image of professionalism and trustworthiness.

So if you’re one of those Chinglish sign enthusiasts who like to hunt down and photograph hilarious signs and menus and packaging, you better make the most of it before the joke is well and truly squashed after December 1.

Chinglish signs may not be extinct yet, but they are officially on the endangered list.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend