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January 29, 2010

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City corrects confusing Chinglish signs

IF you're confused by a "disabled elevator" sign when it's working perfectly fine, don't be, it's just a bad translation.

The city is working hard to correct such signs in the lead up to the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. More than 300 English signs have been corrected recently and inspections will continue, education officials said yesterday.

About 200 student volunteers from 19 universities and colleges participated in the inspections.

"Sometimes mistakes are not only confusing, but also rather amusing," said inspector Yin Jun, a student majoring in international accounting at Shanghai Maritime University. "In one example, a sign read 'the floor slips' instead of 'slippery floor'."

Another sign said, "fall into the river carefully," when it clearly was intended to say "be careful not to fall into the river."

Volunteers, who covered assigned streets about once a month, said newly rising commercial areas had relatively good sign translations, but Chinglish was more common in older areas.

"The signs in the Daning commercial area in Zhabei District were better than those around Yuyuan Garden," Yin said.

Shanghai Education Commission officials said they will re-inspect areas where problems have been found, especially places foreigners are known to visit frequently.

Linguists said it wasn't just Chinglish that was a problem. Spelling was another issue. Gu Daxi, an English professor with Shanghai Normal University, said he found several spelling mistakes around Yuyuan Garden.

Experts said that although people would understand misspelled signs, they still look rather awkward.

Also yesterday, management groups of 10 big commercial areas in the city, such as Xujiahui and Huaihai Road, promised that more than 90 percent of English signs in these areas will be accurate before the 2010 Shanghai World Expo begins on May 1.

As for the "disabled elevator" sign, well, it's supposed to indicate it's for disabled people, not that it doesn't work.


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