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Chinese City Invites Web Users to Correct Its ‘Chinglish’

An image search of the term “Chinglish” in any search engine bring up page after page of public signs in China poorly translated into English. 

“Chinese language blog”, in its post titled “20 Hilarious Chinglish Signs”, pointed out that “Chinglish” is a product of direct translation attempts:

An example of Chinglish from Wikipedia. The original meaning is when there are thunderstorms / please do not climb the mountain. But the Chinglish sign says "Lighting-prone area/ Please do not climbing."

An example of Chinglish from Wikipedia. The original meaning is when there are thunderstorms / please do not climb the mountain. But the Chinglish sign says “Lighting-prone area/ Please do not climbing.”

Trying to translate Chinese directly into English will give you sentences such as “I very like play basketball” (我很喜欢打篮球 – wǒ hěn xǐ huan dǎ lán qiú) or “I with my friend together have dinner” (我跟我的朋友一起吃晚饭 – wǒ gēn wǒ de péng yǒu yī qǐ chī wǎn fàn). Other times, it is a result of trying to directly translate Chinese words for foreign things. That’s why I’ve had students ask me about “Christmas old man” (圣诞老人 – shèng dàn lǎo rén – Santa Claus) and the “fire chicken” (火鸡 – huǒ jī – turkey).

There have been several attempts in the past to wipe out Chinglish in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai ahead of international events like the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Expo. However, the campaigns were not very effective.

But one city is giving it another go. Shenzhen has come up with an idea to wipe out incorrect English signs by inviting netizens to take picture of incorrect signs and post it to Weibo and Wechat with a tag @Shenzhen campaign E (@深圳E行動).

According to local TV news report [zh], there are more than 7.8 foreign tourists visiting Shenzhen every year and about one million of them will stay in Shenzhen for more than six months. About 20,000 foreigners have obtained residence visas and settled in the city. To prepare for the development of the future modern service cooperation zone in Qianhai, the city has been planning to provide a more favorable policy, such as tax exemptions, work opportunities and better living environment, to attract foreigners.

The campaign was launched by Shenzhen's Foreign Affairs Office on September 26, 2013 and it will last for two months. Participants are encouraged to send pictures to the campaign office via email, Weibo and Wechat and provide information about the location of the sign, the details of the mistake and their contact details. They will be awarded with certificates, a Chinese-English Dictionary and free English training classes.

Even though the campaign was widely reported in major local newspapers and TV news channels and campaign posters were put up in schools [zh], judging from the reactions [zh] from Weibo, Chinese netizens are not very enthusiastic. In fact the top post about the details of the Campaign E has zero response.

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