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Cultural, Mandarin Guide

Chinglish: The Weird and Wonderful World of Chinese English

What is it?Chinglish is the phenomenon of badly translated English words and phrases in China –

funny chinglish sign
funny chinglish sign

These are often hilarious and inspire lots of foreigners in China to go ‘Chinglish hunting’… I hope this blog will encourage you to do the same!

What are the causes?
There are many possible reasons for this plethora of grammatical guff but I will just outline the main ones.
Online Translation software… On the whole, these are very useful tools to decipher a sentence or to find the word you’re looking for. But when you are making signs or slogans you need to make sure that the context of the words and the connotations are correct. And this can only be ensured by a human translator. Sadly, most small businesses in China who can’t afford an actual translator don’t have any other option than to consult the net.
Chinese translators… These are the ‘specialists’ who would be called upon by a Chinese company to come in and translate for them. However, these people usually can’t speak English fluently and would most likely just use a pocket translator themselves anyway! And we are back to square one.
Face… If a company needs something changed to English then the boss may call upon one of his staff to do the task. This person most likely claimed in their CV that they could speak English fluently but never thought they would actually be tested on it. Now, the culture of saving face in China means that this person will not admit they lied. They will probably agree to do the job, browse google and take the credit. Then it is too late for anyone to say anything different and we are back at square one again!

But why does this happen??
Why is no one checking these faux pa’s? My guess is that no one really cares.
Westerners who could do the translations properly would be too expensive for something the company considers largely unimportant, and they find Chinglish too funny to offer the corrections for free.
In most cases the Chinese companies use English not to appeal to the English speaking countries but to impress the non-English speaking Chinese. They spatter these erroneous words around their goods to improve the image. English words look cool and exotic to the Chinese, just like Chinese characters look cool to us. 99% of us don’t know what that cheeky Asian character means on our t-shirt but we wear it anyway… This goes for the Chinese too. I once saw a man wearing a black tee with diamante studs all over it and some large text on it in the Gucci font which read ‘clam bake delicious’. But he wore it like a don and all his friends would have treated him like one too.

And it continues?
By and by, Chinglish doesn’t affect anyone in a negative way so the Chinese are not really pushing to improve anything (apart from prior to the Olympics where thousands of signs got corrected in Beijing).
The Chinese are in blissful ignorance of their unsound English surroundings and the foreigners can easily get the gist of the Chinglish to follow its rules whilst having a laugh. And let’s face it… a bit of Chinglish is better than no English at all!
The only complaint would be the occasional vulgar fallacious sentence… mothers look away now…

funny chinese menu
funny chinese menu

Before you ask, this one is from a restaurant menu.

funny chinese mistake
funny chinese mistake

Again, this is from a menu.. not a sideshow attraction!

And then there are the ones which looks the like the company mashed the keyboard with the forehead.

funny mistake in chinese
funny mistake in chinese
gibberish sign in china
gibberish sign in china

Chinglish is here to stay so get your camera out and get used to it! And besides, what good is a restaurant without ‘Grandmas dribble Chicken or a dish which ‘explodes the stomach’?!
If you see any when you are in China, get snapping and email them to us, we love to see new ones!

p.s we might be poking fun at the Chinese in this respect but let’s not forget that we are just as guilty.
I’ve seen many westerners with Chinese on their tshirts and even tattooed on their skin.. and it’s way off the mark too!

funny chinese tattoo
funny chinese tattoo

At least this woman doesn’t need a menu now when she orders her takeaway!


There are plenty more if you search the internet for incorrect Chinese tattoos or just Chinglish!



Want to see how many of these Chinglish phrases you can find in China in everyday life? Then come join us in Qingdao, Zhuhai or Chengdu for an internship and apply now!