Many Westerners have experienced instances of sometimes stunningly poor English in China, often in quite prominent locations. Why does this problem not seem to go away?
It’s certainly no secret that seeing written English in China can be fairly poor and quite comical. In my short period of time here in shanghai, where English is publicised everywhere, the numerous mistakes I’ve seen have left me with enough cannon fodder to be able to start a stand up comedy routine! But why is it this way, who is allowing these poorly phrased signs to be printed?
The reason remains remarkably simple. There is a severe shortage of Chinese speaking Westerners. Whilst yes it is true that it is the growing trend in the western world to encourage Chinese as a second or perhaps third language, most people will only leave school with a basic to competent understanding of the Chinese lexicon.
Chinese to English translation services needs to be able to take Chinese and translate it not just literally but accurately with the correct cursors, grammar, sentence structure and so on which many Western Chinese speakers lack an understanding of. I say many, not all.
Indeed it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the flaws in translation are due to the fact that people aren’t studying Chinese interpretation or translation but purely are learning how to get about and communicate wants and needs in this alien tongue.
However the future looks bright. China’s unrelenting economic growth shows no signs of stopping, making places such as Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong increasingly locations that companies just have to invest in, from a business point of view. This is causing students all across the West to start taking a much closer interest in china as a country of new opportunities, meaning understanding the language to higher than a competent level a necessity.