“Chinglish” is an imprecise term indicating that something has been spoken or written that sounds like a native Mandarin speaker was saying, or writing something, in English and the result is something that is “English” but isn’t quite standard English. The term “Chinglish” is commonly applied to ungrammatical or nonsensical English in Chinese contexts, and may have pejorative or deprecating connotations.

Beijing Speaks Foreign Languages Program (BSFLP) chairperson Chen Lin, in talking about the 2008 Olympics, said, “We want everything to be correct. Grammar, words, culture, everything. Beijing will have thousands of visitors coming. We don’t want anyone laughing at us.”

Any text that your office or business puts out in English that isn’t edited by a native speaker runs a huge risk of containing Chinglish. The risk runs from the harmless nonsensical, through delightfully poetic, on to embarassingly crude or stupid. One person wrote that “it truly is bizarre that so many organizations in China are willing to chisel English translations into stone, paint them on signs, print them on business cards, and expose them permanently to the world without making any effort to check whether they are right.” []

Do you need any of these reactions to your text, be it a book, a pamphlet, or sign?


Common causes for Chinglish include:

  1. Doing things on the cheap to save a few hundred 元;
  2. Lack of concern about quality;
  3. Unprofessionalism;
  4. Overconfidence in English Language abilities;
  5. Not including native English speakers in the translation, or editing, process;
  6. Dictionary translation: translating Chinese to English word for word;
  7. Use of machine translation with no post-editing;
  8. Competently translated text which has been subsequently edited by non-native speakers;
  9. Linguistic differences and mother tongue interference;
  10. Different thinking patterns and culture ;
  11. Outdated Chinese-English dictionaries and textbook-style English;
  12. Mediocre English-language teaching and lack of English-language environment;
  13. Dictionary translation and use of machine translation with no post-editing

If your company, or office, wants to have signs in English, it is important that the English be done in a standard English way, not a “Chinglishy” way. Otherwise your company runs the risk of being laughed at.

Some examples of at-risk instances of Chinglish:


Company names


Government texts


Warnings and cautions


Sales materials




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