You can’t help but love Chinglish. It’s so much fun. I mean this in the most respectful and affectionate way. The fact that so many things even have English translations is so very considerate. How often do you drive down the road and see a sign with Mandarin characters advertising a new park and child play area? That’s right. Not many. The delightful way these signs and posters are often translated makes for a language almost its own. Of course, I’m speaking of ‘Chinglish’.
There are signs in English for a reason – if you’re going to advertise, you better speak the language of your target audience. If you want western tourists to use your travel services it would be best to not use exclusively Chinese.
It probably won’t be too long and the typo’s will be corrected, the grammar fixed , and all the signs corrected by a native speaker. Until then, I will revel in the mis-use of whatever online translator they’re using.
Walk down the street and see a little hole-in-the-wall store front with a sign “Cigarettes – Wine – Beer – Perfume – Firm “. What on EARTH is ‘Firm’? Firm what?? The friend I was walking with suggested maybe it had been a mis-translation (obviously) and they meant something like “Corporation” – not ‘firm’ as in the adjective (‘firm’ tofu), but the noun (law ‘firm’). Even if this is so, it was a funny way to write the sign. “Cigarettes – Beer – Shop”.
The title of this post I saw on a billboard while taking a taxi across town. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture. The billboard had a cartoon character girl leaping in the air with the caption, “Come magnificent with me!!” Apparently, magnificent-ing is exactly what happens when you visit a nearby park that features not just a playground but small amusement rides and paddle boats and whatever else one can do in a monster sized park.
Let me share some of my other recent favorites :
I couldn’t really decide if it was a translation flaw … or if it really IS a foot massage museum! I really want to think it’s a ‘foot massage salon‘ or something of the type. I haven’t yet worked up enough courage to take the steps leading down the basement and find out – I’ll get back to you though. Perhaps it would be even more amazing if it were a foot massage museum. Apparently there IS a museum of ‘tap water’ (perhaps they meant ‘plumbing’?) – I saw it in a guide book.
While walking along one of the lake-parks near the forbidden city I spotted this sign. Interesting because according to the pictures one must “Not pollute the water”, then “Not leave your children unattended” and finally, “do not litter”. However according to what the text is telling me (as it is somewhat difficult to read from the photo) I must “Keep the lake clean”, and “Behave in a proper manner” (This phrasing is especially Chinese), and “Behave in a proper manner”. Not surprising that in a culture where ritual and deference to one’s elders is so important, “behaving in a proper manner” is twice as important as not littering.
The third sign I found in the window of a woman’s clothing shop. Quite frankly, I’m more than a little baffled as to what it is trying to tell me. In their defense, it’s not so important what it says because the concept of walking in the shop and buying something was pretty self-evident. But these are the most confusing types of signs. Sometimes you see words in English, and the message they’re trying to convey is just completely dumbfounding. “What do you suppose I’m supposed to do/not do ??”.
Frankly, I magnificent that I am daily entertained by the Chinglish language. I’ll probably be back to you soon with further discoveries. Until then, do remember to Behave In a Proper Manner!
I checked the Chinese characters for the Foot Message Museum – and guess what! It really IS a museum! crazy! Apparently the last character, 馆 “guan”, means museum.