Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

The End of Chinglish?


Guangxi’ government has launched a drive to correct all the ridiculously badly translated signs in public places. Of course, Liuzhou has been roped in.

A campaign has started in the local rag inviting residents to report any examples they notice. This has had a mixed result. Some perfectly correct English has been denounced for being wrong – Left Luggage Office has been outlawed, for example.

Guangxi Foreign Affairs Office in Nanning have issued all government departments with a booklet, DB45,  detailing ‘standard’ English for public signs.


This is boringly correct in 99% of cases, but they have managed to introduce a couple of their own howlers.

I have been co-opted to advise Liuzhou’s team of Chinglish erasers, so if you have any favourite examples you wish to report, let me know. If you have any particular favourites you want preserved, also let me know – I’ll claim they are correct!

First to go will be one that irritates me beyond all reason! Walking Street!

(Please note that this is only for public signs. Odd menu items or bizarre instructions on household appliances are not included.)


. This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 at 4:25 pm and is filed under Chinglish, Humour, Languages, Liuzhou News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

7 Responses to “The End of Chinglish?”

  1. David Says:

    As you hint , don’t be too draconian with the corrections . Not only do I enjoy them but I’m perfectly capable of figuring out the intended meaning and charm is added to my life .
    I’m always greatly impressed by Chinese authority’s efforts to assist non speakers by these translations , written and announced , and often wonder at such altruism , for that is surely what it is . Be nice to see similar courtesy extended around the UK occasionally . Mandarin speakers in all UK mainline stations and airports ? Lucky to get English speakers …..

  2. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    It ain’t altruism. They are trying to attract tourists.

    The UK has no need to do so, English being the international language and all that. Tourists will flock to the UK whether we supply translations or not. In any case, Chinese tourists nearly always travel in groups with their own interpretor/translator. Incidentally, most major international UK airports do have Mandarin speakers.

  3. David Says:

    Altruism may be a tad strong but I can’t see tourism as the reason why they add pin yin to obscure ‘lu’s’ in a city such as Liuzhou . However , you’re the chinglish czar …..
    What you say about Chinese tourist groups also applies to western tourists in China , of course . Not many people are really ‘travelling” , just box ticking .
    Interesting what you add about mandarin speakers in UK airports . Must seek out the one in Gatwick next time for some pre travel language lubrication !

  4. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    You have to remember Pinyin was devised to help illiterate Chinese, not for random passing foreigners. It still fulfills that function, especially in poorer cities and towns.

  5. David Says:

    I knew that but not that it’s still necessary for some Chinese. So, the much vaunted Chinese education system not quite cracked universal literacy yet? Mind you neither’s the UK.
    Didn’t Mao have thoughts on replacing Chinese characters at one time?

  6. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    There is still a large number of people whose education was severely disrupted during the cultural revolution when schools effectively closed for ten years.

    Also, to this day, in the countryside, many people remain uneducated, especially women.

    I have a good Chinese friend (from Liuzhou prefecture) who has a PhD from Hong Kong and is highly literate in four languages. Her mother cannot read or write at all (so Pinyin doesn’t help her) and has never been inside a school room in her life. This is quite common. Any improvements in Chinese education have only generally had any effect on young, urban dwellers.

    Mao had many crackpot ideas. He wrote them all down in a book for people to wave at him.

    Chinese couldn’t work without characters. Take ‘shi’. There are over 100 characters with that pronunciation. Taken out of context (or even, often, in context) he only way to tell them apart is by looking at the characters. Have you never seen Chinese people “drawing” characters in the palm of their hands so that their interlocutors know which character is being used orally?

    Then there is the famous Chinese tongue-twister


    Every character is ‘shi’.

  7. Liuzhou Laowai Says:

    Has any country cracked ‘universal literacy’?

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