What strikes foreign visitors the most in Beijing may not be the interesting customs, unique architecture and enticing dishes, but the Chinglish on signs.
China Centennial Altar is a landmark building completed in 1999 to greet the new millennium. However, a name plate near the front door reads "China Centennial Temple" and another sign about 50 meters away confidently offers "China Centennial Monument."
Some menus of Chinese dishes are also confusing. The "Italian spaghetti" is translated into "ideas' powder," which derives from the literal translation of the Chinese name.
A thick wheat-based noodle in Japanese cuisine is literally translated according to the Chinese name into "fry the dark winter in the sun's way," which makes no sense at all.
To Jill, an Australian student in Beijing, the Chinglish translations she has collected serve as a chronic laughing stock.
"It is not too difficult for the foreigners who know some Chinese to understand the Chinglish although the translations are very funny," said Jill, who has taken almost 100 pictures of the ridiculous translations.
In addition, some English translations seem horrible. In a restaurant menu, the name of a dish made of young chicken is translated into "young chicken without sex," which makes foreign customers flinch.
The signboard of a small noodle restaurant near the Beijing West Railway Station reads "face powder restaurant," because the two Chinese characters of "noodle" in a whole can be separately translated to "face" and "powder."
Seeing the translation on the sign, a foreigner named David said he would not eat there. He said, "I feel horrible!"
English language is catching on in China. About 250 million Chinese people are learning English as a second language, according to an estimation of the organizers of the Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program, which is working hard to ensure all of Beijing's English signs are grammatically correct and free of "Chinglish" by the end of 2007.
(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2007)