Over the years of living, working and travelling in China I have built up a large collection of pictures of Chinglish texts in toilets, tourist attractions and other places. For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the always helpful Urban Dictionary defines Chinglish as:
Broken English produced by people whose mother tongue is Chinese, that results from one or more of the following:
- translating Chinese sentences on a word-by-word basis, instead of conveying the intended meaning (e.g. translating “wǒ hěn xǐhuan” as “I very like” instead of “I like it a lot”)
- using faulty translation software and not bothering to check whether the translation is correct (e.g. translating “sàn gānguǒ” as “Spread to fuck the fruit” instead of “loose dried fruits”)
- using obscure or slang words instead of the more common synonym (e.g. translating “Guānmén” as “steek” instead of “close”, or translating “Shǒuzhǐ” as “bumf” instead of “toilet paper”)
- falling victim of absurd translations provided as jokes (e.g. translating “tāotiè” as “exterminate capitalism” instead of “tantalizing”)
In my collection you will find different examples of all these categories. I have also included examples of extreme sloppiness like missing characters or spaces and displays of very bad understanding of the English language (cases I normally refer to as ‘the local party secretary’s nephew strikes again’).
Besides many signs and company names I have also included strange pieces of clothing I have come across. English texts are often considered fashionable in China but sometimes, especially outside the bigger cities, people have no clue what the text means. In many cases the text is just gibberish, but I have also seen cases where they were just hilariously inappropriate. As such it’s comparable to the many fails of people getting a tattoo with Chinese characters.
Disclaimer: all of this is meant in a light-hearted way and not meant to ridicule the efforts of the Chinese people. Even failed attempts at translations can be extremely helpful for those who don’t read Chinese. And as somebody that has asked for a 大火鸡 in a tobacco shop I am very aware that mistakes can be easily made, not to mention all of the times I have screwed up the tones when speaking Chinese.
To view my Google Photos Album with a collection of close to 200 Chinglish texts, please click the button below. Hope you enjoy it.