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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 October 2006, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Beijing stamps out poor English
Chinese street sign
Occasionally, a sign makes sense
China has launched a fresh drive to clamp down on bad English in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Previous attempts to wipe out Chinglish - the mistranslated phrases often seen on Chinese street signs and product labels - have met with little success.

Emergency exits at Beijing airport read "No entry on peacetime" and the Ethnic Minorities Park is named "Racist Park".

Beijing city authorities will issue new translation guides by the end of the year, Xinhua news agency said.

Running joke

The booklets would be handed out to hotels and shopping malls, on public transport and at tourist attractions.

Chinglish has become a running joke among many foreigners in China, and several websites have been set up listing humorous examples of mistranslation.

A road sign on Beijing's Avenue of Eternal Peace warns of a dangerous pavement with the words: "To Take Notice of Safe; The Slippery are Very Crafty".

Menus frequently list items such as "Corrugated iron beef", "Government abuse chicken" and "Chop the strange fish".

The mistranslations arise because many Chinese words express concepts obliquely and can be interpreted in multiple ways, making translation a minefield for non-English speakers.

The municipal government in Beijing first tried to stamp out the problem just a month after being awarded the 2008 Olympics back in 2001.

A year later the Beijing Tourism Bureau set up a hotline for visitors and residents to tip off examples of bad English, and said results would be reviewed by a panel of English professors and expatriates.

What are the more memorable examples of Chinglish that you have seen?

Your comments:

A lot of common errors were transposing errors, for example: First Aid Centre was Fivst Aicl Centrt. Another sign read: Help potect the cultural relecs, help protect the railings.
Mark Quan, Toronto, Ontario

I have two favourites from spending many years working in China. At the Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xi'an a sign said "Cherishing Flowers and Trees" which meant "keep off the grass". The other on a cruise on the Yangtse River, "Don't Bother" instead of "Do not Disturb" on the cabin doors. There were many others but these always made me smile.
Lee Tomkow, Santa Barbara, California

Whilst living in Beijing about a year ago, I came across a park in a residential area in the Shunyi district which (although intended for use as a 'dog park') was translated to 'Dog-Bark Park'. Not to mention an apartment building which, for some bizarre reason beyond my knowledge was named "An Australian Lady and Her Lifestyle".
James, Spring, TX, USA

At the Simatai section of the Great Wall of China there is a sign that reads: People and flowers, plants help each other in breath, if you pick the flowers they will die, and you will reduce your life too. A lovely message somehow gone somewhat wrong.
Ollie Boothroyd, Windsor, UK

"Site of jumping umbrella" (paragliding site)
Michael Pye, Cambridge, UK

"No striding". On a menu: "The oil explodes the shrimp". "Pleasant aftertaste". On a sign: "Keep fire in safe hands, we live in a safe world."
Emily, Bremerton, WA, USA

My favourite is: "Please take advantage of the chambermaids" on a hotel brochure.
Andrei Pogonaru, Bucharest, Romania

At one of the bigger train stations (and I'm kicking myself right now because I can't remember which one!) there is a huge, and I mean huge, sign which states simply "Question Authority". Remember, this is an incredibly heavily controlled officially Communist state. The sign is merely pointing to the help desk.
Peter Douglas, Edinburgh

The taps in my hotel room in Beijing had a fancy engraved sign "No Drinking Without Dealing" - I suspect they meant "boiling". There are so many examples but my favourite may have been at the Ming Tombs "Environmental Sanitation of the Scenic Spot Needs Your Conserve" - indeed it does.
David Graves, Seattle, USA

Forbidden: Prostitution, gambling and drag abuse!
Lou, Beijing, China

I have stayed in Shanghai many times for work. The new subway at Jing An Temple was proudly opened early for tourist trips. All the east exits said "East Exit". All the west exits said "Wast Exit". The next trip back the offending words were covered with duct tape.
James Phethean, Helston UK

When I was living in Beijing in 2000, I saw a sign in front of a rock garden in the Forbidden City that warned tourists "Please do not climb the rocketry".
Craig, California

Airline Pulp - The only English description on a snack package handed out with drinks on Southern China Airways.
Andrew Hobbs, Henley on Thames, UK

While working in Taiyuan, north of Beijing we had the pleasure of visiting a local tourist attraction, one of the signs that had us chuckling was, "do not overtransgress" which is a good guideline, but I don't think you would find a similar sign in an English speaking nation.
Vincent vandenHeuvel, Strathroy, Canada

On a menu: worm pig stomach. No thanks, I had it for breakfast, honest.
Janet, Edinburgh

While staying in a hotel in China I noticed that in with the free (complimentary) bath stuff was a number of items for sale including a pair of boxer shorts labelled "Uncomplimentary Pants"!!
Stephen Mowll, Poole, Dorset, UK

From a recent trip to China to teach English, my favourite example of a mistranslated phrase belonged to a chocolate snack cake whose slogan promised: "This tastiness cannot be carried, even with both hands."
Alia, Austin, USA

A sign in the Shanghai metro read: "After first under on, do riding with civility".
Zachary Scott, Chicago, United States

Beijing seeks to root out 'Chinglish'
06 Dec 02 |  Asia-Pacific

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