Beijing's plan to wipe out mistranslated English-language signs is just one part of a broader effort to prepare the city to welcome everyone here for the 2008 Olympic Games.
For example, signs reading "Eye Hospital" will be replaced by "Ophthalmology Hospital" along with dozens of others at tourist spots and public parks.
In addition, 5 million Beijing residents, about 35 percent of the population, will be required to know some English or other foreign languages.
Liu Yang, deputy head in charge of the Beijing Speaks Foreign Language Program and the Standardizing Beijing Public English Signage Program, offered an update on the efforts at a news conference yesterday.
A think-tank composed of linguists, medical service and public transportation linguists from the United States, Great Britain, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Singapore have been working with some Chinese English professors since December 2005 to correct public signs.
They recently issued standards for English signs on Beijing's roads, public transports, scenic spots, museums, commercial centers, public cultural facilities, health centers, sports venues and sanitation facilities.
"Throughout the past five years, we have been polishing, polishing and polishing (till we get the final version). Our work is a broad consensus of specialists from many fields and many countries and also the heads of English departments in Beijing's universities," said David Tool, a professor from Beijing International Studies University who is also from the think-tank.
The standards are supposed to be distributed throughout Beijing including at family-owned convenience stores.
In addition, the city will encourage everyone, including foreign expatriates living in Beijing and arriving tourists, to report mistakes on public signs. The most devoted "fault-finders" will be rewarded.
Last year, 6,530 public signs with awkward English were replaced on Beijng's roads and 129 museums in Beijing were also free of bad translations.
(China Daily April 12, 2007)