New stadiums, airports and trains—Beijing is fabricating Great Wall sized for this year’s Olympic games—but one part of the construction is several bricks short of full height: the signage.
The hundreds of thousands of visitors—half a million expected in the Chinese capital officially—will find little relief in language from the countless signs erected on their behalf—other than the humourous kind that is—for the accuracy of many translations is firmly in last place; a gold medal likely for unintentional mirth.
Giving rise to more than a sense of humour, the Beijing Municipal Tourism Board has thrown up its arms about many of the city’s bilingual notices, hiring English experts to eradicate the funny side, restore a stiff upper lip to countless “Chinglish” signs, restaurants and shop fronts. Feeling hungry during a frolic in the Forbidden City? “Burnt lion’s head” will no longer be an acceptable part of the menu.
Yes, it is outrageously funny, and even in parts of Western Europe entirely accurate, but “Welcome big nose friends” will no longer allowed on the front of eating establishments. Likewise “Reception Centre for the Unorganised Tourist”—albeit probably true for most visitors, Germans aside.
Want to go for a walk in Beijing’s ‘Park of Ethnic Minorities?’ Still a pleasant stroll in the inner city, but no longer a walk on the wild side, for in mistranslated, misunderstood “Racist Park,” you take your care and care for your wallet when the roads are wet: “the slippery are very crafty.”
Doug Lansky, travel writer and author of Last Trout in Venice, laments the loss of the linguistically lacking from China, for in his opinion, signs on lawns pleading “don’t walk on me” reveal much about the Chinese way of seeing the world—perhaps a Jain-like sensitivity to the feelings of too-often trodden turf?
“On one hand I can understand why they are doing it – they don’t want people making fun of their language skills or culture, but on the other hand, it’s a real shame. The travelling experience should be a little bit quirky, and throw people off balance a bit.”
Too much tricky in there!
The last word on loose and fast words goes to a “Sylvia”—not her Chinese name—a co-worker of this author who recently described the business of doing business in China in perfectly plain Chinglish:
“Sorry about inconvenient. Remember this is in China. Too much tricky in there! My goodness!”
Story misappropriated but not mistranslated from The Telegraph.