Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Message from Big Apple

Reader Diane Maas from New York City reconfirms part of my theory on the underlying motivation of the ongoing Chinglish production in connection with the Chinese tourism industry. Please find her guest comment below:
My husband, daughter and I were recently (April 2010) on vacation in Yunnan, where I'd like to report that Chinglish is alive, well,and thriving. From the top of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to the depths of the Jiuxiang Grottos we saw some wonderful examples (see pics below). As Yunnan is now opening up to tourism (though we saw mostly Asian tourists--no Westerners), signage is mostly bilingual Chinese-English, or in most cases, Chinese-Chinglish. Many places in northern Yunnan such as Zhongdian (now renamed by the Chinese government as 'Shangri-la' purely for tourism purposes) once sleepy little cities are getting on the tourist industry bandwagon reinventing themselves as necessary "destinations.' Therefore, most of the signs are relatively new (created in the past two years, when the Yunnan tourist industry has been in high gear) - so that made the Chinglish charm all the more poignant.
Here are two of her treasures:

Many thanks, Diane!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Shanghai EXPO English

哇!What an interesting way to start the new year. This sign with its full name of 《卢湾区窗口服务与商业发展指挥部世博双语指南》(approximately: World Expo Bilingual Compass (issued by) Luwan District Commercial Development Headquarters) is a great window into the Chinese mind (at least into the one that deemed this sign necessary).

Clearly nothing (substantially) wrong with the English here. But using Chinese characters as a phonetic crutch to teach English pronounciation is a fascinating phenomenon. I thought this particular concept to be dead and buried, though. Clearly, I was wrong.

Here's a Pinyin transcription:

Welcome to our store! - weierkangmu tu aowo sidao!

Good morning - gude maoning
Good afternoon - gude afutenu
Good evening - gude yifuning

Can I help you? - kan ai hai'erpu you?

I'm sorry, I can only speak a little English. - anme saorui, ai kan wenglei sibike e leitou yinggelishi.

Just moment, please. - jiesite moumente pulisi

I'll find our colleague for help. - ai wei'o fande awo kaolige fou hai'erpu

Bye Bye! - bai bai

It's interesting to see that the Chinese phonetic transcription itself isn't consistent: in the first sentence the sign makers are using "澳窝 aowo" for "our" (welcome to our store) while in the last line they were voting for "阿窝 awo" (I'll find our colleague for help). It's a long sign, apparently.

Dear readers and Chinglish fans:
Please send me an original picture of this sign including its surroundings! Mail address is on the right.

Jackpot question:
who is the target audience?

Many sankesi!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Variations on a theme.

"小心碰头" xiao3xin1 peng4tou2 - "mind your head" is a sign that you can't miss whereever you go in China. That is, if the translation comes out right, which is not really happening in many instances. Please find a selection below. I am really puzzled when it comes to the last one!

Many thanks to Kevin, Chris and Gordon for contributing to this selection!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Chinglish Files go academic.

I am happy to announce that the Karl Jaspers Centre for Advanced Cultural Studies (KJC) at Heidelberg University (Germany) has awarded me with a PhD scholarship and a seat in this year's Graduate Programme for Transcultural Studies.

The programme is part of the Cluster of Excellence "Asia and Europe in a Global Context: Shifting Asymmetries in Cultural Flows". I quote:
Its aim is to analyse shifting asymmetries in cultural flows. The nongeographical use of both Asia and Europe and the concept of cultural flows are key elements of innovative theoretical debates on cultural exchange from the Bronze Age up to the present.
My topic: Chinglish, of course! I keep you informed.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chinglish talk on China Radio International

Program description:
Although Chinglish has caused some controversy among the Chinese, some foreigners are interested in them as well. Oliver Radtke is one of them. We have invited him to our studio to discuss Chinglish.
Thanks, CRI, for having me on the show!

Click to listen to the webcast.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Posting from Germany.

Fellow Chinglish friends,

for the past few weeks it was almost impossible to post or moderate comments. Blogger blocked, Google blocked, Youtube blocked...

(Note to Internet cops: Guys, this is still the wrong way of doing it.)

Hope you continue your support while I figure out what technical solutions to use in the coming months.

Best from Heidelberg,


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

AFP 1, Reuters 0.

AFP's Beijing correspondent Peter Harmsen and I had a wonderful linguistic conversation over a cup of freshly brewed coffee recently.
Here's the story:

Language lover on quest to save Chinglish
(posted May 5 2009)

Many thanks, Peter.

Compliments to the Huangpu River.

Recently I did an interview with JFK Miller, Editorial Director of, the website of that's Shanghai city magazine:

"The fine art of Chinglish"
(posted May 04 2009)

Many thanks, JFK!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Differing view from Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao.

Many thanks, Yang Yongxin (杨永欣), for taking the time to comment on the Chinglish phenomenon in today's Lianhe Zaobao. I quote:
在我看来,中国式英文展现的并不是中国人的创意,更不是什么文化宝物,而是一些中国人不认真的工作态度,因此中国式英文的风气不能助长。(In my opinion, Chinglish isn't about Chinese creativity, even less about being a cultural treasure, it's about a lack of serious working attitude with some Chinese, therefore the common practice of Chinglish mustn't be fostered; my translation)
"a lack of serious working attitude", all granted, many examples prove that point. My point, however, is much more the lifelessness of most so-called standard translations, to challenge the notion of standard-English, who defines it, the intended or unintended ingenuity of some of the translations, the necessity to keep the Chineseness of the original content etc. Languages are inevitably changing, English has proven to be one of the most flexible idioms and Chinglish is already an inseparable part of it.

30 year-old Yang Yongxin who studied in the US and the UK should know that first hand. Since he's working as Zaobao's correspondent in Guangzhou I am looking forward to his personal contributions.