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Shanghai goes all out to beat 'Chinglish'

By Gao Changxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-05-31 09:29
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SHANGHAI - Hunting down and replacing public signs written in "Chinglish" has been a priority for the Shanghai government over the past few years. But the advent of Expo 2010 Shanghai has deepened its resolve to locate and destroy signs written in mangled English.

Besides hiring professionals to find and replace Chinglish signs, the government earlier this month initiated a grassroots online campaign named "Searching for Shocking Chinglish on the Streets", which encourages citizens to post examples of Chinglish they spot in daily life.

Co-organized by the city's Youth League Committee, and Microsoft's search engine Bing, the public campaign is the government's latest effort to provide unambiguous information to millions of foreigners arriving in the city for the six-month Expo.

On the campaign's official website, "no load speaking", a miserably translated sign that the website believes means "no travelers allowed", is now voted by netizens as the most "shocking" Chinglish sign, with 4.83 points on its "shocking scale" from one to five.

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It is followed by "regiment city wei secretary", a mix of Chinese pingyin and English, which is supposed to mean: "Secretary of the Municipal Youth League Committee".

Also listed on the website are "inhale tube" for straws, "export" for exit and "wash after relief" for flush after use.

People have posted a total of 252 grammatically twisted public signs, along with witty notes and photographs of the signs to prove they were not making it all up.

The campaign also provides some perks for the contributors. The spotter of "no load speaking", net-named kmi82, along with two others, Jiangbin and Zhanglei, were each rewarded with a 4-gigabyte (GB) flash disk for getting the highest number of points last week.

Monthly winners and the overall winner will be given free access to online English courses from English-language schools.

"The whole thing is not just fun; there is a cause," said an official with the Youth League Committee, a co-organizer of the project.

"When the number of posts reaches a certain level, we will advise the city Appearance and Environmental Sanitation Administration Bureau to sort out the Chinglish mess on the streets."

The Shanghai Commission for the Management of Language Use has been trying to accomplish a similar result over the past two years.

With 600 volunteers and a group of adroit English speakers, the commission has fixed more than 10,000 public signs, rewritten English-language historical placards and helped hundreds of restaurants recast offerings, according to The New York Times.

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