Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The China Daily Show "reveals" the origin of Chinglish

Just stumbled across this hilarious posting by the China Daily Show:

The mystery behind the spread of “Chinglish” – an Asian version of English that commonly includes weird and wonderful verbal contortions – appears to have finally been solved.
The bizarre alternative language has been conclusively traced to Mario Benvolio, an illiterate Spanish-American teacher who emigrated to China in 1981, where he quickly became its foremost authority on English teaching.
Read the article at:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Check out this great collection.

Great Chinglish collection by Alex in Freiburg, Germany, such as the following:

Many thanks for the shout out, Alex!

Check it all out at:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chinglish absence in Taipeh

Just got back from a trip to Taiwan. What strikes me, time and again, is the absence of English in the linguistic landscape of the city. I am not talking about shop signs only, but also official signage such as this construction site notice. The sign reads: 非工作人员 禁止进入, "staff only". The mainland has been, for the past few years, gradually adopting the manga/comic aesthetics of official notices which has been popularized in Taiwan and, of course, before that, in Japan. The mainland, though, has been very active in adding English translations. Looking at this manga engineer, I wonder: is it lack of consideration or belief in the internationality of standardized imagery? Or, to turn the idea upside-down: is it a lack of belief in the internationality of standardized imagery on the mainland that you have to add English translations, even to an ISO/9001 traffic sign?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chinglish piece on "Marketplace"

In China, signs translated into English baffle
By Rob Schmitz
Marketplace, Thursday, August 11, 2011

Many thanks, Rob.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Chinglish and ... Google Earth

As part of my ongoing PhD project I am currently working with GeoTwain, a small web application developed at Heidelberg University to create so-called kml files (which you open with Google Earth) from semicolon delimited tables. It supports geo-encoding, i.e. finding coordinates of place names, by searching different databases and applies time and other information to the placemarks.

I am currently testing the software for my needs and came up with a first kmz file (kml plus graphics) with Chinglish signs taken in China. The data source is my second volume of bilingual pictures: "More Chinglish - Speaking in Tongues", published in 2009 by Gibbs Smith.

I am a kml newbie, so I was particularly delighted to learn that you are able to upload your own visualization of a Chinglish spot. Here is the first trial:

In total there are 100 pictures at 42 locations with - no surprise - Beijing and Shanghai as the main spots. The graphic differs in size according to the number of spotted signs. Notice how the density of signs decreases once you start moving away from the coastal areas. Whether or not this is coincidental needs further research, but it fuels the hypothesis that Chinglish is existent where sign makers have an international non-Chinese speaking audience in mind, i.e. metropolitan areas and touristic sights.

Have a look yourself: "More Chinglish: Speaking in Tongues" in Google Earth (needs Google Earth installed)

Comments are very much appreciated.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Chinglish on China Radio International Beyond Beijing

On Friday morning 4 am I had the privilege to join two gentlemen live in Beijing, discussing my favorite topic:
David Moser, Academic Director, CET Beijing Chinese Studies, Teng Jimeng, Associate Professor for American Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University and I had a fun panel in the wee hours of the day.

Listen to the show here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

How to take a good Chinglish picture

I receive quite a few contributions here at Chinglish.de that would make for some marvellous contributions if only their quality would be a tad better. That’s quite a pity, because I very much want to showcase your treasures, but do not want to copy down the content, simply because it’s too dark or too fuzzy.

The following list is an attempt at making you, the Chinglish photographer, contemplate a few things before taking a picture. Keep in mind: this is written for 傻瓜照相机 a “fool’s camera”, or in plain English: your everyday modern digital pocket camera.

First of all: Take your time.
Good pictures rarely get done in a rush. I know what it feels like to come across good Chinglish. You laugh, you are excited and you want to catch the sign as quickly as possible. So you hurry. I say: please put down your camera bag first or any other stuff you are holding in your hand at that moment. Believe me, with free hands and regular breath your picture will turn out so much better.

Take two.
If you are not sure that your auto focus worked correctly, give the sign another shot.

Check the lighting.
Do not photograph against the sunlight. Do not use a flash when the sign has a polished surface since it will reflect the flash and ruin your picture. If you can move the light source try to play with it. If you cannot, move yourself.

Get close.
If your camera has a macro function (as most modern cameras do), use it.

Change perspective.
Try to get as close to the sign as possible and change perspective. Try and take a picture from the lower left or the upper right.

Add background.
Adding context makes sense with a lot of signs. For example: add a bit of lawn if you are taking pictures of a public park sign asking to watch your steps.

Use a tripod.
Although it may feel quite bright outside, shooting in the early evening without using a flash is almost always a mission impossible. Using a small tripod helps. It does not need to be a tripod with telescope legs, a small 5$ mini tripod propped on a bike saddle helps stabilizing quite substantially already. Use the self-timer.

Very important: Do not forget the original.
In order to compare the Chinese text with its English counterpart, do not forget to include the original characters in your picture. If that cannot be done, please shoot an extra one for reference purposes.

I hope this proves helpful to you. I am looking forward to your contributions!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Follow-up from Canada.

CBC, which is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and their radio program "As it happens" contacted me before dinner yesterday. I had a little chat with host Carol Off on Shanghai's correction efforts. You may find the program here:

Here is the actual interview (wma file):
Listen to Part 2 of As It Happens

Monday, May 03, 2010

News from Big Apple again.

"Shanghai Is Trying to Untangle the Mangled English of Chinglish"

Thanks, Andrew!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

This blog has moved

This blog is now located at http://chinglishfiles.blogspot.com/.
You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

For feed subscribers, please update your feed subscriptions to