Beijing launches campaign against incorrect English-language si

Sunday, December 8, 2002

BEIJING -- Fed up with restaurants offering "fried pawns" and "bean eurd," Beijing tourism officials are launching a campaign to stamp out mangled English on menus and public signs, a state newspaper reported Friday.

"There are many 'Chinglish' words on road signs, public notices, menus and signs describing scenic spots, which often puzzle foreigners," the China Daily quoted Xiong Yumei, vice director of the Beijing Tourism Bureau, as saying.

The bureau has launched a six-month campaign to clean up English on signs at some 60 popular tourist spots, the China Daily said.

It includes a hotline for foreign visitors and the Chinese public to report mangled English, the newspaper said. A panel of experts will review the comments and make corrections.

City officials have been pushing hard to improve the quality of English spoken by people in the tourism industry as a way to attract visitors to Beijing. The China Daily said the city expects to get some 3 million foreign visitors this year.

In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, the city already has launched English classes for taxi drivers and police.

Yet public signs in Beijing still often feature jarring word-for-word translations of Chinese into English.

Some examples: "Collecting Money Toilet" for a public restroom, and "To take notice of safe, the slippery are very crafty" on a sign warning that roads are slippery.

Restaurant menus are fertile ground for indelicate misspellings.

"The soft-fried 'pawns' are a seafood without 'r' and the 'bean eurd' is, I presume, bean curd. It is surprising how many spelling mistakes can exist on a five-page English menu," Janet Clause, an Australian tourist, was quoted as saying in the newspaper.

Students at elite Peking University began a campaign last year to find and fix improper English on public signs.

"Linguistic perfection is becoming increasingly important with the rise in the number of foreigners flowing into the city," said Li Honghai, a city official in charge of promoting study of foreign languages by Beijing residents.

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