April 14, 2007 at 12:38 am #21981
note: half the fun of travelling is seeing the world through different lens. We laugh on the China Dream Trips at the humorous Chinglish we encounter. …then I think how funny our mangled chinese is to the locals. The chinese still assume, after all these centuries, that culturally we Westerners are still barbaric. I think they may be right. – Michael
Jonathan Watts in Beijing
Saturday April 14, 2007
After an anti-spitting campaign and a toilet modernisation drive, the Olympic clean-up of Beijing is spreading to the city’s badly translated English signs and menus, which is likely to mean fewer perplexed visitors but less fun for expatriates.
A crackdown on poor English could mark the end for “pubic toilets”, “racist parks” and entreaties for people to “show mercy to the slender grass”. Orders to “Beware Safety” and “No Shit” face a similar fate, as does a notorious caution about wet floors: “The slippery are very crafty.”
These odd signs are under the spotlight as municipal officials dispatch linguists on to the streets to minimise the risk of confusion to foreigners and domestic embarrassment during the 2008 Games.
“Some of the translations in China aren’t clear or even polite,” said Liu Yang, director-general of the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages programme. “The government realised that if they weren’t changed, the city would lose face.”
More than 6,500 signs have already been edited or replaced, and the focus is now turning to food. According to its website, Mr Liu’s group had hoped to provide official names for “all dishes and drinks served in the city’s restaurants” by the end of January, but it has yet to achieve this.
Standardising translations will drain some of the colour from the dining experience. In many restaurants, deciphering translated menus offering delights such as “Acid Food” and “Fried Crap” is half the fun. For the uninitiated, Pockmarked Grandma Chen’s Tofu is a spicy pork dish, while “Regal Paw Conquering Everything Under Heaven” can inspire poetic musing as well as gastric palpitations.
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