“As Beijing prepares to host next year’s Olympics, officials want to rid street signs and restaurant menus of the unique Chinese-English hybrid language nicknamed ‘Chinglish’.” reports RTE

Chinglish sign, referenced from RTE.IE. Copyright acknowledged.

We’re told that:

China is littered with (English) signs that are wrong, embarrassing or just plain rude. For instance, a petrol station might be called an ‘oil gate’ with warning signs like ‘the slippery are very crafty’ (slippery when wet).

Sure, but I wonder if we had to translate into Chinese what our efforts would be like? For one, I’ve grown tired of these “mis-translation” stories, and this particular one has been kicking around since 2002 – at least. There’s something unfair about them; taken out of context without proper learning, terminology and guidance, anyone can make an idiomatic mistake in translation. The faint whiff of racism doesn’t help endear me to the silly anecdotes either. Besides, most people could probably figure out the intention of the message, anyway…

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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