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Shanghai pushes campaign to wipe out Chinglish
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Shanghai will start the next phase of its campaign to eradicate Chinglish in public signs next month to ensure an intelligent linguistic landscape for the millions of visitors coming to town for the 2010 World Expo, officials said yesterday.

Student volunteers will be sent to check the translations in public places and a Website will be launched to collect complaints, the government's Shanghai Language Work Committee said yesterday.

Head-scratching signs like "disabled lift" near elevators and "enter the mouth" on roads will be reported to the appropriate government department for revision.

"We need to exploit the students' language skills," said committee official Zhang Ripei. "Students usually have a good grasp of English, and they will be a good inspection force."

Local universities will be paired with district governments to help wipe out badly translated signs. When glitches are discovered by the volunteers, government authorities will inform the responsible department to work out a change.

All revisions will be based on English-language usage standards that are now out for public comment and will be finalized next month.

The standards, a set of 10 industry-specific volumes, will provide an introduction to basic translation rules and list examples of common English words used in public transportation, hospitals, tourist spots, restaurants and other enterprises.

The standards, however, do not constitute mandatory regulations. City authorities will encourage their use, but there will be no punishment for violators.

Public road signs should be easy to change under coordination with government authorities. But getting private enterprises to revise a badly worded sign might prove more difficult, officials acknowledge.

"Chinglish signs degrade an enterprise's image," Zhang said.

For instance, a pinyin sign for the Hang You hotel near Hongqiao Airport may have been frightening foreign tourists away. After tips from locals, the inn changed its name to Home Yo.

Different strokes

"It's hard to unify the translation standard on everything as different places may have different language styles," said Chai Mingjiong, a professor at Shanghai International Studies University and one of the experts helping to compile the standards. "But obvious mistakes and Chinglish translations should be avoided."

Beijing waged a similar war on baffling English signs in advance of the 2008 Olympics.

"Such actions before big events can improve the city's whole language environment," Chai said.

(Shanghai Daily August 21, 2009)

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