Unclear signs in English to be history

From the “I’ll believe it when I see it” desk here at TPD:

The China Daily and Xinhua report today that Beijing city officials have set an August, 2007 deadline to revise and standardize amusing, misleading, and just plain wrong translations on English language signs around the city.

Toilet will replace W.C. (or water closet) and “Exit” signs will stop “Export”-ing people or showing them their “Way Out”.

These are just a few of the inappropriate and embarrassing signs in English that will be changed to make life more convenient for foreigners in Beijing, especially those expected for the 2008 Olympics Games.

The city has embarked on a eight-month journey to rectify all misleading, and at times funny, signs in public places so that they are in place about a year before the Olympics.

Plus, it will ensure that all signs on roads and public places are in two languages, and the English translations follow a standard pattern. The municipal government’s guide to standard English, published last December, will be used as reference.

“The guide is the first to set a local standard for English in China, and has translations for public signs,” city vice-mayor Ji Lin said at a conference yesterday.

Gourmands will also be pleased to learn that, as part of this process, the city is standardizing the translations for the names of typical Chinese dishes. (Good luck with 麻婆豆腐 ma po doufu)

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Why does the Chinese government continually embarass itself with such silly proclimlations that they have absolutely NO CHANCE of fulfilling?

Part of the problem is the “face” thing. In order to fix English mistakes you have to admit you were wrong. And worse, nightmare of nightmares, you will have to ask foreingers, native English speakers, for HELP.

I met someone who used to be an English editor for CCTV 9. When he pointed out some of the mistakes they were constantly making he was told that they wouldn’t be fixed because “that’s the way WE say it.” Fixing them would require admitting they had been doing it wrong for years. Their arrogance wouldn’t permit it.

February 1, 2007 @ 12:38 pm | Comment

Please ignore the irony of the English mistakes in my last post 🙂

February 1, 2007 @ 12:45 pm | Comment

So what’s wrong with W. C. and Way Out? They are standard English. Nor real English, I admit, but the kind they use in England.

Seriously, though, those are a couple of weird things to use as examples of poor English usage. Sounds like an American reporter not well traveled within his own civilization. Or maybe he’s just getting back at that portion of the British population that regards any usage different from their own as a flagrant error.

Getting back to China, it will be a good thing if Iron Buddha is wrong, which I suppose he isn’t. American v. British is good fun; but English is a more useful international language if it doesn’t get still more fragmented.

February 1, 2007 @ 1:33 pm | Comment

My all time favorite: “To Take Notice of Safe – The Slippery Are Very Crafty.”

February 1, 2007 @ 1:41 pm | Comment

The craziest signs are in Taiwan. My impression is that people in Taiwan are much less Anglophone-able than in the Mainland. I find this is the case, even in big cities, like Kaohsiung and Taichung.

Check out one of the crazy signs I took a picture of in the Miaoli City train station: http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger2/1779/2466/1600/DSCN3073.jpg

February 1, 2007 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

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