Embarrassed by bad translations and tired of utterly confusing English speakers, the Shanghai Commission for the Management of Language Use has been working feverishly for the past two years to correct Chinglish, the often flawed melding of Chinese and English, on public signage and restaurant menus all over the city. Using an army of over 600 volunteers, the commission has fixed more than 10,000 signs, rewritten English-language historical placards and helped hundreds of restaurants recast offerings.
“The purpose of signage is to be useful, not to be amusing,” said Zhao Huimin, the former Chinese ambassador to the United States who, as director general of the capital’s Foreign Affairs Office, has been leading the fight for linguistic standardization and sobriety.
Of course you’ll always have someone on the other side of the debate. Meet Oliver Lutz Radtke, a former German radio reporter who is reputed to be the world’s foremost authority on Chinglish, he believes that China should embrace the fanciful melding of English and Chinese as the hallmark of a dynamic, living language. As he sees it, Chinglish is an endangered species that deserves preservation.
Sure it is. I’m going to put Chinglish’s cultural significance right up there with the academic study of Ebonics.