Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Sign outside a Shanghai bar

One of my favourite things in China is the chinglish. Found commonly on products and signage in China it is an attempt at English marred by poor translation and misspelling. I particularly like this example as it features a classic mistake - the bizarre word substitution (unless they really are selling bishops) but also the more unusual use of anachronistic language. Where on earth did they find 'nosh'? Are they avid readers of The Beano? Personally I blame electronic dictionaries for this but more on that later. But don't worry, the Chinese government is on it. The English language press in China routinely call for people to send in examples of chinglish in an attempt to clear up these discrepancies. Beijing Today goes further, tackling the signs with gusto any English teacher would be proud of:

The sign reads "Any assistance?" We can help you with our pleasure". The author acknowledges that we get the gist here but points out the grammatical errors and that "the sentence structure is sloppy".
I have to wonder at why we are getting this language lesson. Beijing Today is an English language newspaper so if you can understand the article you'll already appreciate the mistake. On the other hand I doubt if the authors of this sign are regularly scouring the papers for tips on English grammar so this is a pointless exercise. Unless, the real purpose of this exercise is to illustrate that the powers-that-be know that chinglish looks amateurish and 'sloppy'. I suspect that's the real message here. This is an exercise in restoring face, that someone feels that these signs reduce the national 'face' and this a way of reasserting credibility and expertise. Just a thought.

More fun can be had at www.engrish.com. Its mainly examples from Japan but with China's determination to be first at everything they are coming up fast on the site. Below is one of my favourites from the site.

1 comment:

Damian said...

Ahhh. Chinglish… how I miss China. I remember when I was living near Shanghai that I would spend so much time shopping simply because I felt compelled to read every badly translated product description. I actually had a . I heard that the Government wanted to eradicate the sloppy translations before the Olympics in 2008... Even back in 2005, they didn't even nearly have enough time. :)