Beijing to mix Pinyin, English on signage

This is a real disappointment: Beijing is going to drop full Pinyin on its street signs and replace it with a mixture of Mandarin (in Pinyin) and English. By this I mean that it will have not “Zhongshan Lu” but “Zhongshan Rd.” Thus, it will be following the model of Taiwan, though I doubt anybody there put it that way. Why this is necessary is beyond me. After all, foreigners get by just fine in France with “rue” on street signs instead of “street.” Beijing, however, has decided that “hutong” can stay.

This is being done in the name of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, of course.

I’m glad there’s a move to correct bad and incorrect signage, but this is the wrong way to do it. Bad move, Beijing!

Běijīng yīxiē shèwài fàndiàn, lǚyóu jǐngdiǎn, jiāotōng gànxiàn děng chù de Yīngwén biāozhì cuòwùbǎichū, yǒudeshì fānyì yǔfǎ yǒu cuò, yǒudeshì Yīngwén hé Hànyǔ Pīnyīn hùn yòng, yǒudeshì yìwén zǒuyàng, yǐzhìyú chūxiàn Zhōngguórén kànbudǒng, wàiguórén kànbumíngbai de gāngà júmiàn.

Bùguò, jìzhě jīntiān cóng quánwēi bùmén huòxī, zhè yī gāngà hùnluàn de júmiàn yǒuwàng zài 2008 nián Àoyùnhuì zhīqián zhōngjié.

Běijīng shìmín jiǎng wàiyǔ huódòng zǔwěihuì rénshì tòulù, jīngguò zhēngqiú 30 yú wèi zhuānjiā de; yìjian, 《Běijīng shì dàolù jiāotōng biāozhì Yīngwén yì fǎ yuánzé》jíjiāng chūtái, jiāng jiē, dào, lù míngchēng tǒngyī guīfàn, rú: Běijīng de “jiē” guànyǐ Yīngwén suōxiě “St”, “lù” yì wéi “Rd”, xiǎo jiē, tiáo, xiàng hé jiādào shǐyòng “Alley”. Ér tǐxiàn lǎo Běijīng wénhuà sècǎi de “hútòng” yī cí, jiāng cǎiyòng Hànyǔ Pīnyīn yǔyǐ bǎoliú, yīnwèi tā yǐjing pǔbiàn bèi wàiguórén jiēshòu.

Suízhe guīfàn Yīngwén biāozhì de hūshēng yuèláiyuè gāo, jīnnián Běijīng shì jiāo guǎn bùmén yǐ náchū jǐ qiānwàn zhuānxiàng jīngfèi, yòngyú gēngxīn sān huánlù yǐnèi de jiāotōng shuāngyǔ biāozhì. Jùxī, sān huánlù yǐnèi suǒyǒu yìwén bù tǒngyī, bù guīfàn de dàolù jiāotōng shuāngyǔ biāozhì jiāng yú míngnián Liùyuè qián gēnghuàn wánbì, sān huánlù yǐwài de bù guīfàn Yīngwén jiāotōng biāozhì yě jiāng zài 2007 niándǐ quánbù huànxīn.

北京一些涉外饭店、旅游景点、交通干线等处的英文标识错误百出,有的是翻译语法有错,有的是英文和汉语拼音混用,有的是译文走样,以至于出现中国人看不懂、外国人看不明白的尴尬局面。

不过,记者今天从权威部门获悉,这一尴尬混乱的局面有望在二00八年奥运会之前终结。

北京市民讲外语活动组委会人士透露,经过征求三十余位专家的意见,《北京市道路交通标志英文译法原则》即将出台,将街、道、路名称统一规范,如:北京的“街”冠以英文缩写“St”,“路”译为“Rd”,小街、条、巷和夹道使用“Alley”。而体现老北京文化色彩的“胡同”一词,将采用汉语拼音予以保留,因为它已经普遍被外国人接受。

随着规范英文标志的呼声越来越高,今年北京市交管部门已拿出几千万专项经费,用于更新三环路以内的交通双语标识。据悉,三环路以内所有译文不统一、不规范的道路交通双语标识将于明年六月前更换完毕,三环路以外的不规范英文交通标志也将在二00七年底全部换新。

(Aside: Note the double zeros crammed into one graph: 二00七 and 二00八, for 2007 and 2008.)

source: Běijīng Jiāotōng Bùmén yù chìzī shù qiānwàn yuán xiāomiè cuòwù Yīngyǔ biāozhì (北京交通部门欲斥资数千万元消灭错误英语标识), Zhōngguó Xīnwénshè (China News Agency), November 15, 2005.

6 thoughts on “Beijing to mix Pinyin, English on signage

  1. I’m intrigued by the meta-message behind this and stories about how everybody in Beijing is supposed to learn English by 2008, as near as I can tell, it’s something like “Speak Chinese, English or stay the hell away.”

  2. Following the model of Taiwan, or of Shanghai? Shanghai is filled with Rd’s and other Anglicisms, even going so far as to name ??? as Tibet Rd and ????? as Urumqi Rd.

  3. Interesting. Thanks for the information about Shanghai. Do you happen to know how long the street signs there have been that way? In Taipei, “road,” “street,” etc., date back at least a decade, probably a lot more than that.

    I’d love to hear more about the styles of street signs around China. For example:
    Shanghai Rd.
    Shang Hai Rd.
    ShangHai Rd.
    Shang-hai Rd.
    Shang-Hai Rd.
    SHANGHAI RD.
    SHANG HAI RD.
    SHANG-HAI RD.
    etc.

    And are there tone marks?

  4. I’ve never seen tone marks anywhere outside of language textbooks here. You’re usually lucky if the Pinyin’s correctly segmented. The signs I’ve seen here have all been of the form “BEIHAI PARK” / “LIU HAI HUTONG” / “LUOBO XIANG” etc.

  5. Pingback: Pinyin news » more on Beijing’s English and Pinyin signage

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