Govt puts word out it wants to improve English

Updated: 2010-07-13 13:16
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In China, it is possible to encounter hilarious Chinglish mistakes on public transportation and at other facilities.

While many expats joke about the phenomenon, Chinglish is a serious problem.

Since the 2008 Olympics, Beijing has been receiving more and more foreign tourists, students, and employees. Unlike a decade ago, not all of these people are businessmen who can afford full-time translators or students who have studied the Chinese language for years.

How much trouble does a printed mistake cause for a foreigner who doesn't know Chinese? What if he or she needs emergent information but cannot understand the Chinglish, or, even worse, pinyin "translations"? It must be very frustrating for foreigners to deal with Chinglish-only public servants.

Liora Pearlman is a stay-at-home mother who has been in Beijing for five years. As an American, she said that she has been seeing more and more poorly written English signs.

"At first, the only signs I noticed were in shops, things like 'Bump don't head' and I thought it was cute. Now, I just have to look outside of our apartment complex to see several examples of bad English," said Pearlman.

She has gone as far as mentioning examples of poor English on signs to shop owners in a friendly way. According to Pearlman, the shopkeepers "didn't seem to care too much".

She said she has hesitated to report such things to the government for fear that she may get someone in trouble. "Is it really necessary to get the government involved?" she asked.

But the government has answered Pearlman's rhetorical question by announcing a four-year-policy aimed at improving Beijing's public English offerings and making things more convenient for foreigners.

The policy, "Establishing the Capital's International Language Conditions Project Plan (2011-15)," has not only the goal of clearing up Chinglish on signs but specific objectives that extend to other sectors, such as improving citizens' English proficiency through fun activities, standardizing information services and increasing bilingual media.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Govt puts word out it wants to improve English

About the broadcaster:

Govt puts word out it wants to improve English

Lee Hannon is Chief Editor at China Daily with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.