With the rapid development of our society and the close contact with the outside world, more and more foreigners are coming to china. Therefore it is important to make our international communication appropriate and idiomatic for foreigners to know better about China and make them feel at home. The most obvious form of English is the translation of Chinese public signs appearing in public places, which constitute in indispensable aspect of international communication.
To translate this special style of expression form, we should clarify the scope of public signs first. They include a large variety such as traffic signs, road signs, and tourist directions appearing at scenic sites. Second, it’s rather important for us to recognize the features of public signs as well as functions. Last but not least, we should grasp some basic and practical strategies and techniques in translating public signs.
So, here is the first question: what are public signs? According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English (Sixth Edition), sign refers to a board, notice, etc. that directs somebody towards something, gives a warning and advertises a business, etc. And public signs are a kind of practical style which, generally speaking, refers to some written materials, articles, documents, etc. in practical use.
While in Chinese, the expression of public signs was quite rough-and-tumble before. It is in recent years that the expression 公示语 comes into our view. In this literal meaning, 公示语 refers to the words or expressions shown to the public in public places. Some similar Chinese expressions are 标志语，标识语，标示语，标语，etc. which have their own respective meanings, and are used in different fields. 标志语，together with signs, is widely used traffic, tourism, transportation and some other public fields; 标识语belongs to the scope of marketing, which is mainly used in promotion and advertising of products in conjunction with enterprises’ logos; 标示语 has been diffusely adopted by IT industry, and almost become one of its language branches; as for 标语, it refers to the expressions on commonweal, politics, propaganda purpose. Obviously, only can the expression of 公示语 embody the connotation and extension of all these expressions, and become a new comprehensive term.
Sings can be used in all kinds of places with different usages. According to their usages and places they appear, this dissertation divides them into the following types:
Social signs appear in public places and they aim at keeping a good order by a series of rules. For instance:“内部停车场 Staff Parking”, which means that those who are not staff will not be allowed to park here;“母婴候车室 Waiting Room for Mothers with Children”, which shows our considerable attention to the mothers with children.
Traffic signs can be seen everywhere in downtown city or on the highway. They play an important part in traffic and social order. If the foreigners see“Right Hand Road Blind”which provides the information ahead, they will change their direction and avoid wasting time.“老，弱，病，残，孕专座 Seats for the Old, the weak, the disabled, the pregnant”and“学生出入，限速40千米每小时 Speed Limit 40Km/h, Students present”show our valuable tradition, that is, to respect the old and to take care of the young. And others are such as“红灯亮时不准转弯 No Turn on Red”.
Road signs tell us what this street is named. Since a city is made of a lot of streets, the strangers who come for the first time may have some difficulties in recognizing the roads. So road signs should not be neglected, which help a lot especially when we have a map in our hands. When I came to a place for the first time, though I am completely new in there, I won’t feel at a loss as I have a map in my hands with which I can figure out where I am easily. For example: “People’s East Road 人民东路”, “Jie Fang Road 解放路”, “Labor Road 劳动路”.
Signs at scenic places
In places of interest, some signs are provided to help the visitors further understand the history or origin of the place or remind the tourists to abide the rules. “请勿攀折花木 Please Don’t Pick the Flowers” is to ask the visitors to protect the beautiful flowers and keep a splendid environment. Some description on signboards tends to be brief, informative, realistic and practical, but provides tourists with general information.
Names and services of institutions and shops
These signs demonstrate their business and services of the institutions and shops. Generally speaking, they include two categories: one is the names of institutions and shops; and the other is service of institutions and shops. Let’s look at signs demonstrating names of institutions and shops. In China we have so many banks, either state-owned or private. The flowing are the names of banks:
交通银行 Bank of Communications
中国农业银行 Agriculture Bank of China
中国建设银行 Construction Bank of China
招商银行 China Merchants Bank
To be continued…