Ahead of Olympics, Beijing cleans up its 'Chinglish'
Beijing's government trying to fix bad English mistranslations and sloppy editing for visitors.
By Craig Simons (来源：英语学习门户 http://www.EnglishCN.com)
Sunday, February 11, 2007
BEIJING — Visitors to China's capital can stroll through "Racist Park," enjoy a plate of "Crap in the Grass" and stop by a Starbucks franchise for a cup for "Christmas Bland" coffee.
Beijing's government is trying to clean up such mistranslations and sloppy editing (including the inversion of "a" and "r" in carp on English menus) before an expected 500,000 foreigners arrive for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
"Some of the translations in China aren't clear or even polite," said Liu Yang, director general of the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages program. "The government realized that if they weren't changed, the city would lose face."
The campaign includes teaching 300 English phrases to 48,000 taxi drivers, helping private restaurants edit menus and standardizing public signs.
The English translations on signage range from charming mistakes to baffling renditions that spread anger and confusion.
A sign warning of a wet floor in a Beijing shopping center was recently translated as "The Slippery Are Very Crafty."
In Shanghai, which will host several Olympic soccer games, at least one public toilet equipped for handicapped use is emblazoned with "Deformed Man Toilet."
At a tourist site in Pingyao, a popular city for weekend trips from Beijing, visitors struggle to make sense of a sign stating, "Coming and going in turn, and don't stretch out your head to watch please."
Many of the funniest examples of "Chinglish" — the unusual and sometimes incomprehensible phrases that result when Chinese meets English — are found on packaging, such as instructions on a Chinese-made candle warning owners to "keep this candle out of children."
In Beijing, several district governments offer citizens free English classes with the goal of boosting the number of foreign-language speakers from today's 3.2 million to 5 million by 2008, when they will be called on to help the city "host a most excellent ever Olympic Games," according to a poorly edited English version of Beijing's "Plan of Action for the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program."
The city has also vowed to make menus comprehensible to English speakers and is compiling a standardized name list for more than 1,000 dishes, the China Daily reported last month.
Director Liu said that deciding how to translate Chinese entrees such as "Pockmarked Grandma Chen's Tofu," a spicy pork-and-tofu dish named after its creator, can be tricky.
"For some dishes, we'll just have to explain what's in them and keep the original name," he said.
His office faced a similar problem when it translated Beijing place names.
"For example, there was a question about how we should translate 'hutong,' " the traditional alleyways that surround parts of the Forbidden City, he said.
"They aren't really lanes or alleys in the Western sense and they are important to our history, so we decided just to keep the word hutong. There wasn't anything better," Liu said.
"Racist Park," the English name given to a theme park extolling China's minority cultures, on the other hand, was obviously a bad translation, Liu said, adding that an overreliance on the dictionary can lead to the incorrect choice of synonyms and that the park would be renamed.