English signs in Beijing "lost in translation"
Shelly Kraicer, a Canadian who works in Beijing as a film critic, has found many funny but mistranslated signs throughout the Chinese capital, and urges improvement to save the city's "face."
On a recent subway ride, he noticed a grammatically incorrect sentence printed on all the gripes in his compartment -- "For is your convenient travel, please go by subway."
It doesn't take much effort to find similar ridiculous signs in Beijing's shopping centers, hotels, parks, buses, subway, and even the airport. Hotels misuse "scatter" for "evacuate" in their emergency information signs. Tobacco shop billboards say they sell "smoke," instead of cigarettes.
"There has been great improvement since Beijing put into practice the use of English signs," said Mr. Kraicer, who began to work in Beijing three years ago. "But careless signs may just make things worse."
Beijing started using English signs in late 1980s for the 11th Asian Games in 1990. "Chinese-styled English" signs, however, are prevalent in the country, confusing and misleading foreigners.
To prepare for an excellent Olympic Games in 2008, the host city has embarked on a campaign to improve its English signs.
The Beijing Speaks to the World Committee, a non-governmental organization that teaches common residents basic English, was set up in 2002, which is supported by an advisers' panel of 23 Chineseand foreign experts of English.
Like many other countries, China has been working to set standards for bilingual signs, said Chen Lin, professor of English with Beijing Foreign Studies University and chairman of the panel.
Chen prefers using "Pinyin," the Chinese phonetic symbols, to English translations for most Chinese place-names, considering it more convenient for foreigners in Beijing to communicate with local people, and for Chinese postmen to deliver international mail.
"But translating names according to their traditional meanings is also necessary, just as we call the imperial park located in northwest Beijing 'Summer Palace' but not 'Yihe Yuan' in Pinyin," Chen said.
The Beijing Speaks to the World Committee has collected nearly a hundred incorrect English signs from around the city, and more Beijing citizens are expected to take part in this campaign to clear out careless English signs.