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June 10, 2010

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Expo signs hit language barrier

TO some foreigners, no visit to the Shanghai World Expo has been complete without one jarring element: Fractured English.

One such tourist has written to Shanghai Daily about the mangling of his home language, complaining that a sign board near the Houtan Exit translated "Exit" incorrectly as "Export."

"Imagine the foreigners who thought they are 'exporting' themselves out of the Expo," the letter said.

The writer said that he and his friends, foreigners all, were surprised to see the sign at the Expo.

Shown that letter, the Expo bureau said it would try to do better, possibly working with some professional institutions to improve English translations at the site.

They might find they have quite a bit of work to do. At the Gourmet and Shopping Center near the Expo Center in Pudong, for example, a sign in front of a restaurant says: "Welcome to Snack-demand Square," meaning, welcome to the buffet.

At the foot of a public statue near Celebration Square in Pudong, the slogan of the Shanghai Expo volunteers is misspelled as "At You Service at Expo." (Instead of "At Your Service").

A visitor to the Expo previews spotted this sign near the Houtan Exit, listing visitor amenities: "Emrgent medicine chest." (It should have said "Emergency." And the wrong word, "emergent," was misspelled to boot. It lacked an "e").

The same sign said: "Paied by all kinds of credit cards." (Instead of "paid").

Joanna Bayndrian, an attendant at the Australia Pavilion, told Shanghai Daily the direction signs at every crossroads at the site had some translation problems.

The Expo Service Center was paying high attention to the issue and would arrange a meeting soon to work out a plan to improve English translations at the site, said a press officer, surnamed Song.

Expo officials anticipate about 5 percent of the estimated 70 million Expo visitors will be from abroad.

The Expo bureau would conduct a survey to count the number of foreign visitors soon, said Hong Hao, the Shanghai Expo's director-general.

Hong said it was hard to count the number of foreign visitors because many of them were invited to the site by Expo sponsor companies as VIPs and did not go through official turnstiles.


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