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Please be careful while reading

[ 2009-08-25 13:15]     字号 [] [] []  
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Foreigners strolling along riverbanks in China may do more than stumble when they see signs warning: "Take care to fall into water".

Fall into the water? And carefully? Not exactly.

And at a large store along Shanghai's bustling Nanjing Road, customers walking on a wet floor are told to "Slip Carefully". It's against just such mistranslations that language experts have declared war.

"A number of the English translations in public areas are quite baffling, others are simply awkward," said Xue Mingyang, director of the Shanghai Education Commission.

"Shanghai is actively developing into an international metropolis. We urgently need to change this," he said.

With about 3.5 million foreign tourists coming to the city during next year's World Expo, the stakes are even higher for accurate English translations.

In response, a new rulebook regulating English translation was launched by the language affairs and quality technology supervision departments from Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces yesterday.

"We hope that through the guidelines English mistranslations will no longer be found by next year's World Expo," Xue said.

Last year, the Shanghai language affairs commission in a citywide inspection found 331 instances of incorrect English translation in public places, accounting for 10.5 percent of signs. Most of them are the misuse of English by Chinese known as "Chinglish" or “Engrish”.

So far, there is no national standard on English translation on public signs. But many cities, including Shanghai, launched previous campaigns to clean up mistranslations and establish standards.

"But some of the standards are 'culture-bound' and there is no consistency. We want a consistent standard of English translation to promote development in the Yangtze River area," Xue said.

Translation standard offices have also been set up for the public, so citizens who spot mistranslations can notify related authorities.


1. Where in Shanghai is the sign warning people to “Slip Carefully” located?

2. Who is launching the new rule book regulating English translation?

3. What are the terms for misuse of English by Chinese?


1. Nanjing Road.

2. The language affairs and quality technology supervision departments from Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces.

3. “Chinglish” and “Engrish”.

(英语点津 许雅宁编辑)

Please be careful while reading

About the broadcaster:

Please be careful while reading

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move