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July 29, 2008

English in Beijing Not Quite Right

There’s no question that Beijing has gone to great lengths to make the city far more appealing to foreigners, but somehow hiring a native English speaker to help translate signs was overlooked. Billions have been spent on construction and other efforts to modernize the city, but the broken English seen in print throughout the city will leave a lasting impression on visitors, long after the Olympic dream has faded.

I’ve begun to stop noticing grammatical errors, translating subconsciously, but occasionally I’m completely unable to decipher notices and even some store signs. To me, it seems like such a simple fix -- native English speakers should have been hired to travel throughout the city as consultants, editing signs, brochures, and museum placards. So many times I’ve wanted to pull someone aside to show them that something’s just not right with their sign -- there’s still time to fix many of these errors -- but getting through to the right person is nearly impossible.



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