Currently in China, each train station offers an English and Chinese translation for each station location. That way, English-speaking travelers can make their way around more easily, and Chinese commuters can go about their day undisturbed. However, the Ministry of Railways has announced a major overhaul to this system. Instead of the two translations for each, every station will be in the Chinese written language pinyin. The language was developed in the 1950’s and is considered the standard way to write Chinese. Not only will the change make travel more confusing for English-speaking visitors, but it is also confusing for Chinese residents.
Translations Defy Logic
Foreigners and locals alike cannot figure out the reasoning behind the overhaul. The English translations at each station did not confuse Chinese people at all, so the change will only make it more difficult for foreign travelers. Few people outside of China know how to read Pinyin. These travelers will now need a Chinese translator to assist them in their journey. By making the journey more complicated for English-speaking travelers, the Ministry of Railways also makes it more arduous for Chinese travelers. They’ll constantly be pushing confused Americans out of the way and missing their trains to stop and help. For many, the decision simply defies logic.
The Overhaul is Costly
As if the imminent confusion that will be caused by the translations wasn’t enough, they will also be expensive. Every sign, ticket, book, website, brochure and timetable will have to be redesigned to feature the new pinyin translation. The train stations might even lose business because travelers might opt to get to their destination in other ways. They might fear the inconvenience of scrambling to pull up automated translation services on their phones at every stop to figure out where they’re going. For such an expensive renovation, it’s surprising that the Ministry of Railways didn’t give the translation more thought.
No one knows why exactly the translations are being made, but they are already well underway. Beijing South Railway Station, now known as Beijingnan Railway Station, has already been renovated. The signs are translated and the tickets have been reprinted. The confusing decision goes to show that sometimes, translations can make things more complicated than they need to be. Though having each station displayed in two languages was unsightly, it probably attracted more tourists. Now, those tourists better come prepared with a professional translator.