Shenzhen, a city which aspires to become an international cosmopolis, has a singularly embarrassing problem — wrongly translated or bizarre English road signs. Now the city is determined to do something to fix it.
Poor or puzzling translations aside, there are some instances of street signs having different English versions on the same road. Shennan Thoroughfare, the city's most important artery, has different English names on its signs, including "Shennan BLVD." and "Shennan Dadao."
Similarly, Bao'an Road North has three different versions, namely "Baoan Beilu," "Bao'an Lu (N.)" and "Bao'an Road (N.)."
Some translation mistakes can confuse even local people or foreigners who have been in the city for a long time. "Fuhua Ei Lu" is on the sign for Fuhua Road 1.
An official with the traffic police bureau said the city's booming urban construction industry is partly to blame for the mess. New roads and streets have emerged so rapidly that old signs appear unsuitable a few years after being erected, he said.
Different rules on English translations by different government departments have also worsened the problem, according to the official.
The municipal civil affairs bureau insists all English street names should be spelled out in pinyin, like Huochezhan for the railway station, while the Ministry of Public Security has ruled that the names should be translated in a manner that foreigners can understand.
The urban administration bureau and the traffic police bureau will jointly set up a team to sort out the differences and correct the mistakes in road signs by the end of this month.
However, the rectification plan covers only 53 roads. It seems there is still a long way to go before all the city's road signs and other public signs become friendly to foreign visitors and expatriates.
(Shenzhen Daily June 16, 2006)