Shanghai sets out to correct 'Chinglish' signs

Shanghai sets out to correct 'Chinglish' signs
GET THE MESSAGE? Signs featuring poorly translated English are a common sight in China. To regulate such translations, Shanghai has established an online platform for the public to obtain correct translations and report inaccurate ones.

SHANGHAI - If you see a sign at a Chinese airport asking you to "stand outside one bowl of rice noodle", it actually means "keep a distance of 1m from the person standing in front of you".

It is a funny translation and one of many that are seen in China. Signs in some toilets, for example, read "easy come, easy go", which actually means "come in a rush, leave with a flush". Then there are the many shops named "Translation Error" - their owners simply used online translation software and had the names printed without consulting an English speaker.

"Some word-to-word translations are really hilarious, especially in some restaurants whose English menus suggest very eerie ingredients," said Ma Ding of the General Consulate of Finland in Shanghai. "But they have also brought a lot of laughs to us."

Although funny translations haven't caused any trouble for Mr Ma or his colleagues, he still supports the standardisation of English signs and instructions in public spaces so that they help foreigners more effectively.

To regulate such translations, Shanghai has established an online platform for the public to obtain correct translations and report inaccurate ones.

Many college students in Shanghai have volunteered to check English translations in the city's public places. They will take pictures and report the mistakes. People who notice inaccurate translations can call a hotline to report them.

The city has formed a foreign-language translation expert committee to provide professional translation for people in need.

"Proper English signs and instructions show how international a city is," said Liu Danyan, a Shanghai native who works for a public-relations firm in the city.

"English signs and instructions are especially important for tourists," she said.

Dan Cheng, manager of the planning department of Shanghai Book Company, agrees. "The correction of English instructions is important because Shanghai is a city open to the world," he said.

However, foreigners generally do not think Chinese-English, dubbed Chinglish, or wrong instructions necessarily reflect poorly on the city's image, said Zhao Ronghui, professor of linguistics at Shanghai International Studies University.

Some works featuring Chinglish translations have attracted the attention of linguists, the professor said. Take Kirk Kenny's Laugh Die Me, which lists 164 funny Chinglish mistakes. The book's name is a typical Chinglish translation of "laugh myself to death".

"Their works have no intention of teasing the Chinese for their English proficiency. They are for fun," Prof Zhao said. "After all, they know that English is a foreign language for the Chinese."

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