Foreign languages and proof reading

It has been speculated that one of the reasons for the abundance of Chinglish (Chinese-flavoured English) on public signs in China could be a lack of proof reading by someone with experience of the language.

It seems China is not the only place where this happens: the BBC writes about a bilingual road sign in Wales which ended up a victim of this phenomenon. This time, however, it was not just bad Welsh which ended up on the sign – it was the translator’s automatic email response saying he was out of the office.

Welsh is the mother tongue of Wales, although English is also an official language, and all road signs in the country are bilingual. Welsh was in decline until recently, but since the 1990s has staged a comeback. Young, modern-day Welsh speakers are comfortable switching between Welsh and English, and a rival to Chinglish is springing up. It is called Wenglish.

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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1 Comment

  • Jodie

    Some of the examples of Chinglish I’ve seen are actually far superior to a traditional translation, in my opinion. Personally, I think “Tender, fragrant grass. How hard-hearted to trample” or “Whoever bully green life merciless” are both much better than “Keep off the grass” and every bit as clear.

    Fair enough, it’s not how professional translation agencies or a native speaker would have phrased it but one thing Chinglish often does is to give you an insight into how the Chinese language works. I accept that the purpose of a sign is to inform, first and foremost, but so long as the message still comes across, I don’t think it matters too much how it’s phrased.