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October 24, 2009

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City signs undergo exercise in clarity

SHANGHAI is looking to get rid of poorly translated English signs as it prepares to welcome about 4 million foreign visitors to next year's World Expo.

Shanghai Media Group's International Channel Shanghai has launched a campaign called "Write It Right" to help correct improperly translated English signs in the city's public areas.

High school student volunteers would take pictures of wrongly translated English signs and billboards in the Expo site, as well as in downtown areas, ICS said.

Experts will then discuss the mistakes and make recommendations.

This month, the city government released a series of guidelines and more than 300 English translations based on international standards.

In coming months, these will replace existing public signs that are inadvertently humorous or insensitive.

The moves follow a similar action taken by Beijing before its hosting of the Olympic Games last year.

The efforts have been welcomed in many quarters.

Zambian Musebu Sichula, 33, a doctorate student who studies at the University of Shanghai Finance and Economics, told a newspaper clear signs were relevant in Shanghai, which is interacting with the rest of the world.

She remembers coming across a large rock in Shanghai with a sign below it that read "Caution, overhead hazard." She could not help laughing over what should have read "Mind your head."

Mardapittas, the creative director of a Shanghai-based media marketing firm, characterized the city's attempt to correct improper English signs as a natural progression in its modernization.

"The way the city is choosing to change reflects the behavior of Chinese people," he said.

"With more Chinese making the effort to learn English and shaping themselves toward a more international way of life, so is the city."


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