Chinese + English = Chinglish

One of the pleasures I enjoy in China is coming across fabulously confusing and inappropriate English translations.  The garbled results are guaranteed to make me smile. Personally, I find it an honor that they try and appeal to English speakers in a country that does maintain English as an official language.  Each has a backstory, but 2 of my favorites include:

A block away from my Shanghai home is a Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) military barracks, that is largely filled with soldiers to protect the diplomatic consular compounds nearby, such as the USA, Iranian (across the street from the USA), French etc.  Outside their front door one day, I noticed this sign below on the left, and for a moment, fear and shock took over me as I listened for the gunshots, until I realized it was chinglish for ‘construction in progress’:


When in Guangzhou on business, the hotel was adjacent to a public garden, where DJ saw the sign above on the right. When we asked the hotel staff about it, the reply was “recently a government minister came to open the park, and walking through it, he commented there should be nice English tourist signs

To while away time from current madness, what follows, are some of my favorites from my collecting over the years:

In October 2005 we had leased 2 identical apartments in the new Fortune Plaza building in Beijing – 32D & 41D, in fact, we were the only occupied apartments at the time (plus one sleeping security guard on the ground floor).

The Fortune Plaza was situated behind the China World Hotel, adjacent to Beijing’s 3rd Ring road, and within walking distance of the only ATM machine we ever found that accepted our US debit cards and paid out like a Las Vegas slot machine.

The building had an electronic video security system for building access, all in Chinese.  It was complicated, and we could not figure it out.  When we knew guests were coming, we always went downstairs to wait for them to let them in manually.

We asked the building management if the system had English instructions, they said they would provide for us.  About 2 weeks later we received lovingly hand-crafted complete gibberish of “Proper Englich insdructions for Secur system entry

Proper Englich insdructions for Secur system entry

For example:

煤气(GAS) The yellow lamp flashing when the gas divulges.
防盗(Security) Has illegal enters when the yellow lamp glitters.
紧急(Urgent) when the emergency case urgent lamp glitters.
测试(texts) In makes when the coal gas survey test uses.
防盗(Security) The hypothesis or relieves the guard function.
停止/复位(stop) Stops or when the replacement the security system uses.
(Power source,Urgent)
Under the urgent condition uses. Usually the lamp is opened, after presses down the urgent button is red lamp does not stop glitters.
▲ ▼ The adjustment telephone conversation volume size and the picture clear degree-hour uses.
(Telephone conversation / security guard room)
When calls the security guard room or from exterior (telephone, inside connection, security guard room, public entrance, entrance) sends in when the messenger call telephone conversation uses. When calls sends out from exterior, light does not stop glitters, presses button light opens.
(The function opens the gate)
In establishes when each kind of function uses.  When opens the entrance or the public entrance gate uses. (In peacefully has when door lock which assigns uses) when the establishment function the lamp is opened

This type of glittery instruction was typical of most of the appliances and products we bought and used.  Trial and error became the way to learn how to use things.  Non-sensical “engrish” instructions never helped.

Each had its own printed out translation guide to help us turn on, adjust volume, and turn off.  Walking into either of our apartments was like walking into the kitchen scene from the movie The Color Purple where everything was labelled to help learn the language.