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Wangfujing’s war on Chinglish

By Zhang Zihan  (Global Times)

13:16, January 17, 2013

Two foreigners pass a curiously named store on Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng district Wednesday. (Photo: Li Hao/GT)

Key Words: Beijing; city guide; Wangfujing; travel; Chinglish;
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Wangfujing is the latest area of Beijing to have its Chinglish tidied up, after Dongcheng district chengguan (urban management officers) helped foreign affairs officers to inform store owners of their errors in translation Tuesday.

Forty stores in the famed shopping street were found to have problematic English in their signs and labels, according to Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages (BSFL), a program launched by the municipal government to promote the use of English.

"The way they translated the signs was so literal, so word by word, they can hardly be understood by foreign travelers," BSFL wrote on its website.

A member of Dongcheng chengguan, surnamed Yang, said they have spoken to the business owners.

"We persuaded the owners of the faulty signs to correct the errors after experts found them, and they agreed to fix them," he said.

One convenience store in Wangfujing mistranslated "Brand Name Tobacco and Liquor" into "Smoke Famous Name Wine." According to BSFL, this highlights a significant wrong translation which cigar and liquor vendors committed many times.

"They often use smoke instead of cigar or tobacco, and use wine to refer all kinds of alcohol," according to the BSFL website.

Mathiew Alzuyeta, a French traveler, said he thinks these translations are too difficult to understand.

"They're badly translated and you can hardly tell the meaning, it's a pity to find these signs here," he said.

Staff from the "Smoke Famous Name Wine" convenience store said they had already asked an advertising company to make a new sign.

The owner of another shop, which translated "Souvenir Shop" into "Features a gift shop," said advertising companies are the ones to blame.

"It wasn't until the chengguan told us that we realized the translation is wrong. We don't understand English, and how do we know the advertising company's mistakes?" he said.

At a small advertising company in Chaoyang district, staff has to use's online translation function to make English business cards.

"We don't speak English, so we use this," said a female employee.

According to The Capital International Language Environment Construction Work Plan, all translations of signs, menus and government agency names must be standardized.

An employee from BSFL, who did not give her name, said the organization has been busy finding mistakes all year.

"We have a 40-strong expert crew and more than 1,000 volunteers finding translation mistakes in Beijing. People who find translation mistakes can also report them on our website," she said.

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Leave your comment2 comments

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widmerpool at 2013-01-2183.69.244.*
The best thing about this article is the quote from the French traveller who criticizes the Chinese while not knowing the difference between pity and shame.
elee at 2013-01-17183.39.26.*
This is happening all over China, including major cities where there are local stores and shops! Yet, local officials are / were turning a blind eye on all these chinglish matters, quite shamefully.

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