Translation musings: Chinglish gets the heave ho

Oct 10, 2013 | Translation

ChinglishChina is the place to be. Prolific in business, trade and tourism, China is keen to be as welcoming to foreign visitors as possible. And that includes providing English signage. However, the translations are not always what they could be, resulting in… Chinglish.

So what is Chinglish? Nothing to do with chins, disappointingly. It is in fact the phrase coined for the sometimes bad, sometimes hilarious, sometimes just plain baffling, Chinese to English translations, as seen on signs all over China. So many signs, in fact, that the officials of one southern Chinese city have recruited the general publish to track them down and eliminate (well, as least translate correctly!).

Not everyone agrees however. German sinologist*, Oliver Radtke, believes that Chinglish should not just be treated as a hilarious joke and destroyed, but rather conserved; referring to it as “the wonderful results of an English dictionary meeting Chinese grammar”. And he has a website doing just that.

Here are another couple of good examples!

好好学习,天天向上  was translated as Good good study, day day up or, to put it a another way – learn, every day.

Or what about 马马虎虎. You could say so so but doesn’t horse horse, tiger tiger have a better ring to it?!

Have you got any good Chinglish examples?

* in case you’re wondering, Sinology is the study of Chinese language, literature, or civilization – I looked it up!

image credit: megoizzy at