The name of the shop on Beijing’s glittering Wangfujing Street was amusingly quaint: “Smoke Famous Name Wine”. In Chinese – and what the owners would have surely wanted it to mean – the name was “Brand Name Tobacco and Liquor”; a priceless example of meaning – not entirely though - lost in translation and the source of many a chuckle.
Well, that chuckle and the very loosely, and literally translated name of the shop, is likely to be wiped out soon. More than 40 men and women, expertly trained in English, are now roaming the streets of Beijing to correct wrong English on signage across the sprawling city of 20 million people.
The programme rather ambitiously titled “Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages” (BFSL) has been launched by the Beijing municipal government. Beside the strict 40 English teachers, it has another 1000 volunteers walking around the road, picking holes and more in English spellings on shop signage.
The new programme has coincided with the launch of the Beijing municipal government’s new English and multilingual websites on Thursday.
State media reported that at least 40 stores around Wangfujing Street were found to have problematic English in their signs and labels.
“The way they translated the signs was so literal, so word by word, that they can hardly be understood by foreign travelers,” BSFL wrote on its website.
Wangfujing is the Capital’s newest area to have its “Chinglish” tidied up, after Dongcheng urban management officers helped foreign affairs officers to inform store owners of their errors in translation on Tuesday
A member of Dongcheng chengguan, surnamed Yang, said they have spoken to the business owners.
“We persuaded the owners of the faulty signs to correct the errors after experts found them, and they agreed to fix them,” he told state media.
On the name of the liquor store, BFSL said: “They often use smoke instead of cigar or tobacco, and use wine to refer all kinds of alcohol.”
According to The Capital International Language Environment Construction Work Plan, all translations of signs, menus and government agency names must be standardized.
An employee from BSFL, who was quoted by state mouthpiece, People’s Daily said the organisation has been busy finding mistakes all year.
"We have a 40-strong expert crew and more than 1,000 volunteers finding translation mistakes in Beijing. People who find translation mistakes can also report them on our website," she said.