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Despite the Chinglish, Shanghai subway delivers
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09:31, August 22, 2007

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As a subway commuter, Robin Sari, a Canadian polisher for an English magazine, was wondering what "fleeing for your life" meant when he first saw this poster in the subway.

It was only after encountering it many times that he realized the poster was trying to convey how to escape in the event of an emergency.

"That is such a funny and weird expression, but it still showed the attempt to help passengers" said Sari.

Echoing his views, Morita Lee, a Japanese engineer, said he once chanced upon a subway sign that read: "Your mobile phone on your waist seems like the gifts for thieves."

Lee said: "Although I am not a native English speaker, I pretty much understood the meaning; it is a warning to watch out for theft on the subway."

He added that he had seen other similar funny signs on the walls of the subway cars, such as "Be careful with the bags you take, with more safety in chest" or "Keep your belongings snug."

Lee even took photographs of the two signs and showed them to his friends for a laugh over the Chinglish expressions. However, he added that many such Jinglish (Japanese-English) expressions could be seen in Japan as well.

There are now five subway lines in operation in this city, covering 145 km. By 2010, Shanghai will have 13 subway lines extending 400 km.

The two expats now working in Shanghai believe the local subway is definitely among the cleanest in the world.

Sari noted: "Compared with the subway I took in London, New York or Montreal, the Shanghai Subway is well-maintained and swift." He said it was not necessary to take the Chinglish very seriously, adding: "As long as it conveys the idea to the passenger from home and abroad clearly, it is okay."

For Warren Ching, partner in the UK-based Linguaphone Language School in Shanghai, the big problem is the inconsistency that crops up in the English translations for the names of the same roads.

Ching said: "I notice Xizang Zhonglu (the Middle Xizang Road) has different English translations on different lines or stops."

He recalled that once he had to help a visitor from Sweden figure out that the subway station called Middle Henan Road was the same as East Nanjing Road.

Ching, a native of Hong Kong with its famed MRT, suggests that the Shanghai subway operation companies standardize the road and station names and ensure that the companies responsible for producing subway maps do the same.

But Ching had a word of praise for the automated voice system reminding passengers of the upcoming subway stations, which he said was very professional.

Source: China Daily



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