Chinglish

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Commit No Nuisance

Commit No Nuisance

Forbid To Beam On

Forbid To Beam On

I spotted the first sign on the Great Wall. The sign in Chinese says: 保护文物 – 请勿便溺。 This can be translated as “Protect the heritage – don’t soil“. Was the original meaning of the sign too harsh for foreigners? We are here just encouraged to “commit no nuisance“!

I found the other one on the subway door. In Chinese, it says: 禁止倚靠。 This means “don’t rest/ lean on (the door)“. Which is understand much better than “beam on“!

Luxuriant Grassland, Please Don't Trample

Luxuriant Grassland, Please Don't Trample

Please, Don't Bomb Into The Ash Here

Please, Don't Bomb Into The Ash Here!

I found that one when visiting the Ming Tombs, nearby the Great Wall. In Chinese, this is:芳草萋萋,踏之何忍。 A better translation would be “don’t step on the luxuriant grass“. Now, let’s look at the picture again: does it look like a patch of luxuriant grass to you? I thought so.

This one was my last Chinglish sign in Beijing: it was at the airport, in the smoking room. To be honest, when I first read it in English, I didn’t have a clue of what it meant. Now, the Chinese is: 请不要把烟灰弹入此外。 Literally, “don’t throw your ashes in there” (“there” was the air conditioning’s grille). Why “bomb“? I think this is just common airport paranoia…

Please Don't Climb The Rockeries

Please Don't Climb The Rockeries

Protecting The Wild Animals Is Protecting Mankind Ourselves

Protecting The Wild Animals Is Protecting Mankind Ourselves

I found that sign at the Summer Palace. I’m being picky here, because “rockery” is a real word(just British). Still, it made me laugh.

This one was found on the Great Wall as well, nearby the Bear Park. In Chinese, it says: 保护野生动物,就是保护人类自已。 Basically, “Wildlife protection is also the protection of mankind“.

Take Care Of Head

Take Care Of Head

Be Care Of The Distance

Be Care Of The Distance

This one was taken nearby the Silk Market. In Chinese, this is: 小心碰头. This can be literally translated as “don’t bump your head“, or better, “watch your head“.

The last one is perhaps the most mysterious of all. I found it in the middle of a street and it says: 注意距离。The translation is almost accurate: it would say it’s more like “watch the distance“. But what did they mean? Could that be “maintain an appropriate distance” and thus refer to people rather than, as I had assume, to traffic? Was this sign encouraging the “个人区域” (“personal space“)? This is a mystery to me!

In all fairness, I must admit there are less “Chinglish” signs than let’s say ten years ago! Yet, they still make me laugh…

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

30 Comments

  1. sir jorge of culver on

    That’s great. In Mexico there are similar signs, next time I go I’ll be sure to take a camera. Spanglish has got to be famous by now. This is just great though, Chinglish is a first for me, at least the term is.

  2. Wow. This is funny stuff. I never realized there are Chinese equivalents to what I am used to. When I was in Japan, there was so many “Engrish” (a play on the fact that Japanese speakers lack the distinction between /l/ and /r/ sounds. If you are interested, go to http://www.engrish.com and you can see for yourself what I am talking about.

  3. Lol…I laugh whenever I see signs like these. However, simplified writing doesn’t help me to understand the meanings though.

    I have reposted my trip to Munich, so your comment was erased. Sorry about that. You can post more comments:)

  4. In India its “Hinglish” That’s Hindi (National Language of India) + English! 😀

    Know what? In India we have primary 29 languages but it has many sub branches which leads to hundreds of languages 🙂 Fun to know right? But it’s more fun to experience 😉

  5. i would like some butter, in sera’s spanish:
    yo estoy la mantequilla.
    translation: i am the butter.
    yes i said that.
    maybe that’s why when i try to speak a foreign language, people hide their faces in their hands.
    but hey, when a person at least tries to speak another language, they get bonus points.
    i love this post, zhu.

  6. Nice examples! I’d love to have been there when they were written to see how they came up with them. The Google Translate theory seems too simple for some of these.

    Not that I would be able to do any better myself though, even if I knew Chinese!

    By the way I always thought ‘rockery’ was a funny word too, and I am English :))

  7. Thanks for correcting the English signs in china.
    I am chinese.
    To be honest, there are many chinese people master Enlish like you.So I think we should ask some masters to rectify the English signs before placing them in public. And you remind of us. And thank you for reminding of us we should learn English as well as our mother tongue. Thank you.
    Incidentally, you are good at Chinese.Otherwise you can not correctly translate the chinese signs into English. We chinese English learner should learn from you in learning Chinese.
    Do I leave a Chinglish message for you? Please correct it.
    Thanks.

  8. Hi Zhu,
    It’s always fun to read translations. And it starts from reading the messages in fortune cookies that we get in Toronto chinatown!

    Like Annie said, in India you have Hinglish, Minglish, Bonglish… and plus mixture between each other too, so it is damn confusing 😛

    cheers,
    Priyank

  9. Guess what…I just stumbled upon your blog! Must have been the powers that be encouraging me to comment more…

    Well, this was a fun post. I was amused, though that’s not saying much as I was bored as heck 😛 . Keep it up!

  10. I love badly translated signs, they are always so cute. I will really be respectful, and protect my head while not making a nuisance by not beam up on the grassland!!

  11. You know why? This is because the Chinese tends to translate Chinese characters word-by-word into English, and hence the joke! 😀

    And for the 请不要把烟灰弹入此外, the character 弹 can be translated as throw (tán) and bomb/missle (dàn). The officials who were in charge of the translation works must have overlooked the meaning behind this!

  12. LOL… when I have visitors from my old country – Slovenia, I (and others) speak Slovenglish (Slovenian/English) and through the years we managed to develop a perfect symbiosis of the two – so very different languages. Often I’m amazed myself after realizing what has just came out of my mouth…

    Great blog, very colorful (and somehow different-looking than most of the blogs I’ve seen sofar) – and loads of interesting info. Good job! 🙂

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  14. @sir jorge of culver – I haven’t seen to many Spanglish in Mexico… but my English wasn’t that good then.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – Thanks for the link, I had a few good laughs!

    @Bluefish – I just can’t read non-simplified but I see what you mean… In Hong Kong, it was hard for me to decipher anything!

    @shionge – I’d love to see some examples! I sometimes speak and write Franglish as well 😉

    @Annie – I’d love to see that! Most Indians I have met abroad spoke great English.

    @beaverboosh – Bet they should have! 😆

    @Seraphine – Butter is cute, that should be your new username! 😉 In Spanish, Feng would say “yo quiero nuevo” instead of “huevos” (“I want new” instead of “I want eggs”).

    @Liz – Sometimes, I have no clue. Some are just dictionary-translated, like we get the meaning but we wouldn’t say that. Or they are direct translation of Chinese idiomatic expressions, like the “mankind ourselves”, it’s the way you would say it in Chinese.

    @Aiglee – It was fun 😉

    @expatraveler – To be fair, most signs are actually pretty well translated. And at least, they are translated… it’s easier for foreigners, even if there is some Chinglish!

    @Keshi – Long time no see, I gotta visit!

    @kevin – Ooops… see, I speak Franese (French/ Chinese) sometimes too! 😆

    @David Yang – No Chinglish here, your comment was perfect… and thanks for visiting! I went to Beijing a few times and to be honest, I found the city is making great progress. 说英语的中国人越来越多, 他们的英语也越来越好! 我去北京的上次,上出租汽车,点菜,买东西等等的时候,大部分的人连一个句子也不会说。对不起,我的汉语也不那么好。。。

    @Priyank – Oh fortune cookies.. these are hilarious!

    @nhuong – It is much better than it used to be. I had to look hard for them 😉

    @Ulquiorra – Chinglish is always fun!

    @RennyBA – Makes me laugh in every language 😉

    @DianeCA – Good girl, you’re ready to go travel in China! 😆

    @kristin – Yeah… and we get lost too!

    @Shantanu – I need to check out “Inglish” now then.

    @kyh – Ah, thanks for the explanation! I forgot about this “tan/ dan”! I was wondering as well…

    @saraht43 – Thank you!

    @daria369 – Thank you for the praise and also for sharing your experience! My French is weird now too, after living in Canada for so many years… when I speak to my parents I sometimes translate English expression in French and it doesn’t mean anything.

    @SilverNeurotic – It’s a fun activity trust me 😉

    @cchiovitti – Nah, only works for Chinese people 😉

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