Despite massive efforts to eliminate faulty Chinese to English translations popularly known as "Chinglish" on signs and menus in preparation for the Olympics, Beijing officials still have a long way to go to make their English signage tourist friendly.
It comes in many forms and can be found all over the capital city. All over China, in fact. It might be a menu advertising "Terrorized US Pork Steak" or a fashion billboard touting "Pleasanty surprise of groping." At times it can verge on poetry, but more often than not it just comes across as what it is: Bad English. "Chinglish," as the Chinese have come to call the linguistic massacre, even has a mass cult following of fans who troll the Internet for the most entertaining examples of bad English to share with friends or at the office water cooler.
But as they prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games, officials in Beijing are waging war on Chinglish. They fear it will distract from the billions being spent to polish the city up for the international sporting event and the coming out of a spiffy new Beijing on the world stage. The city has set its sights on spitting, bad manners, taxi drivers who only speak Chinese, run-down housing and things as mundane as restaurant menus and signs. The city even has translation standards aimed at preventing linguistic disasters. If city official Liu Yang, the deputy head of the "Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program", has his way, menus with specialties like "It is small to fry the chicken miscellaneous" or "mixed elbow with garlic mud" will soon be a thing of the past.
"You can't talk in absolutes," Liu told a news conference on Wednesday. "We'll work as hard as possible to extinguish the problem and get more city residents involved. Of course, it will still happen occasionally, but I think we can ensure that once mistakes are found, they are rectified."
With only 500 days left until the games begin, task master Lui and his 35-member team have their work cut out for them if they want to make Beijing's English visitor-friendly. Lui said Beijing's road signs had already been standardized and corrected, and that by year's end the tourist, business, medical and public transport sectors would also be addressed.
The city is also relying on the snitch factor to self-correct its English problems. To speed the process along, officials have encouraged residents and tourists alike to report incidents of Chinglish online or by phone.
"It's much more proactive than before," Lui said. "People pay more attention to image now."
In some areas, significant progress has already been made. Beijing's "Hospital for Anus and Intestine Disease," for example, has now been renamed the "Hospital for Proctology."
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