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Plenty of Chickens Still Not Getting Enough


Mar 13, 2012
By Paul Pennay

In the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the city government was busy preparing for an onslaught of international visitors and in addition to spending billions of yuan on constructing Olympic venues, multiple new subway lines and other "hardware" required for the big show, they didn't forget to pay attention to those little details that really matter.

This included things like making sure that the taxis didn't smell funny, that taxi drivers wore uniforms and that they could speak and understand a few basic sentences in English.

Officials, with help from volunteers, also helped to increase the number of (Chinglish-free) bilingual signs through the city. Post-olympics, it's a lot easier for people who can't read Chinese characters to do everything from take a public bus to find a public toilet in the city.

One other thing that the city government attempted to do was standardise the English translations of many of the dishes that appear on a typical Chinese menu.

Officials sent copies of the new "officially approved" translations of everything from Gongbao Jiding (宫保鸡丁) - they advocated the use of "Kung Pao Chicken" as opposed to the commonly used "Sautéed Diced Chicken with Peanuts and Chili" - to restaurants across the city in a bid to have them update their menus in advance of the games.

Many restaurants seem to have taken the city government's advice and updated their menus, thus making it easier for non-Chinese-literate visitors to order something that they like, though it has probably also reduced the number of guffaws and titterings from customers choosing between the Stewed Big Cock (Dun Da Gongji) or the Hot Spicy Crap (Hot Spicy Carp).

News today that the Foreign Affairs Office of the People's Government of Beijing Municipality (北京市人民政府外事办公室) and the Beijing Speaks Foreign Language Office (北京市民讲外语办公室) have jointly published an (updated? - we have suspicions that they've just recycled the Olympic list or stolen a few from Shanghai's "Expo" version) list of the official translations has once again led to a new round of jokes about "Chicken without sex"

Perhaps it also suggests that many small restaurants have not been responsive to the city's suggestions, preferring their own unique translations to the staid and correct models provided by officialdom. Perhaps it just means that these two government bodies don't have much else to do with their time.

Links and Sources
Beijing Daily: 北京推出中国菜官方英译名 童子鸡译为“春鸡”
The Official English Translation of Chinese Dished (2008): 《中文菜单英文译法》



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