Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chinese Menu Translations: No more "Government Abused Chicken?"

English translations on Chinese Restaurant menus have long been a source of cheap yucks. Ludicrous, and sometimes even x-rated translations on menus have been a major component in the corpus of "Chinglish", a phenomenon that inspired web sites and picture books. Now, if the municipal government of Beijing has its way, these gaffes will become a thing of the past.

According to a China Daily article,

The Beijing municipal government's foreign affairs office and the Beijing tourism bureau have jointly published a book, Chinese Menu in English Version. It lists 170 pages of Chinese and Western dishes, and beverages. And nowhere is "chicken without a sexual life" to be found.

The book will no doubt come in handy to those restaurants that depend on translation software for the English names of dishes. "Government Abused Chicken" is now correctly rendered as Kung Pao Chicken.

The official list is published on many (mostly Chinese) websites. The most accessible source is here. I'm working on a spreadsheet version, with Pinyin Romanization included.


The pamphlet does not include such items as "General Tso's (or Tsao's) Chicken" and "Singapore Fried Rice", popular mostly overseas. For that matter, Yang Chow Fried Rice and even the well-liked Egg Foo Young are not included.

Those dishes are on their own. And to correct another omission, 狗肉 on your menu is "dog."

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