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22 Jun, 2017

China to standardize use of English on public signs

By Kou Jie

Beijing, (People’s Daily Online), June 21, 2017 — Chinese authorities on June 20 issued a national standard for the use of English in the public domain, eradicating poor translations that damage the country’s image.

The standard, jointly issued by China’s Standardization Administration and General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, aims to improve the quality of English translations in 13 public arenas, including transportation, entertainment, medicine and financial services. It will take effect on Dec. 1, 2017.

According to the standard, English translations should prioritize correct grammar and a proper register, while rare expressions and vocabulary words should be avoided. The standard requires that English not be overused in public sectors, and that translations not contain content that damages the images of China or other countries. Discriminatory and hurtful words have also been banned. The standard provided sample translations for reference, and warned against direct translation.

Following the trend of China’s globalization in recent years, bilingual or even multilingual signs have emerged in most of the country’s public sectors. Many linguists who study China’s linguistic landscape have pointed out that poor translations are now a major problem hindering the development of a multilingual society, as well as leading to certain social issues. For instance, according to Xinhua, the Park of Ethnic Minorities used to be translated as “Racist Park,” which was offensive to many.

The standard will provide linguistic support for the country’s reform and opening policies, read the official announcement.