Chinglish Seen in Kunming

English signage is popular and so is direct translation from Chinese into English.

The translator of this sign consulted an outdated Chinese/English dictionary to find ‘eximious’. And ‘golf elevator house’, is that a place Chinese people can play golf in a high-rise building?

What Chinese/English dictionary did this translator consult? It must have been a pretty old one, since Webster has considered the word obsolete ever since 1827.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what the translator had in mind. Was he trying to spell Abercrombie & Fitch, was he purposely making up a new brand name to avoid the nonexistent trademark police, or was this a deliberate play on words?

Information for foreign tourists is often translated into English. But obviously not by a native English speaker. Here's an example from a map of Yunnan for tourists: 'In the remote ancient towns, towering mountains and beautiful sceneries, where ethnic culture dazzles in its own colorful ways, one can be thrown into ecstasy over minority habits and reluctant to leave. A historian you might be, then Nanzhao Iron Post in Midu County, ancient city of Dali could lead you to retrospect to an earlier period of Nanzhao Kingdom. Etc.'

On the surface Kunming appears to be a modern city. But behind the scenes sewer service lags far behind. In an upscale restaurant which caters to both foreigners and well-off locals, this universally understood sign greeted anyone who entered.

There are lots of weird sounding English-language signs. But recently renovated museums have very good English-language interpretation and English-language signs often help us find our way to places we want to go.

Speaking of English, in many first grade classes around China, students begin studying English language. So by the time students graduate from high school or university, they have had years of English language study. I have read that there are more English speakers in China than in the United States. Considering China’s population of 1.3 billion relative to the US population of 310 million, this is not surprising.

Leave a Reply