The language we speak is a matter of far more than linguistics alone. Indeed, it is shaped by culture and history and it is forever changing.

Such is the opinion of Pauline D Loh, managing editor of features on China Daily’s Sunday Edition. She notes that American English differs greatly from the Queen’s English, while even within the boundaries of the UK the dialects one can encounter may sound incomprehensible to some.

Ms D Loh cites the story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible. It is written that after the great flood, all remaining humanity spoke the same language. They congregated in Shinar and began to build a huge tower with the hope of reaching heaven. However, God confounded their speech and scattered them across the planet, so the tower was abandoned.

According to Ms D Loh, this lack of one shared language continues to cause problems today. Not being able to understand one another means people “quarrel” and feel suspicious of each another, she says. In China, while people have no problem talking with each other, their communication with the rest of the world is something the country is “still stuttering” over, Ms D Loh explains.

Websites like Engrish have countless examples of Chinese that has been translated into English with comical results. One picture shows a welcome sign that reads: “Welcome to come again”, while other examples include menus offering “fried salary”, “through oil meat mix face” and “brine duck restain anger”. Ms D Loh explains that, conversely, this only serves to make the cuisine sound more exotic than it actually is. Not that fried salary sounds particularly tasty! As Ms D Loh says: “Most of China looks out through a haze of translations, some of which have assumed a life of their own.”

She goes on to note that China is forging an increasing connectivity with the rest of the world, both through more people moving there from overseas to work or study, and from Chinese nationals moving abroad.

With this mingling comes potential friction from culture clashes, but the writer explains that this can be eased if people are able to understand each other. This is an area where progress is being made, with westerners getting involved in popular Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo. Meanwhile, enthusiastic young journalists are on a mission to prevent their culture getting lost in translation, by writing about their country in a way that explains why it works the way it does.

“They help our newsmakers – from top politicians to humble farmers in the field – make that connection with the world,” Ms D Loh notes.

A few years ago, People’s Daily Online compiled a list of the most embarrassing examples of Chinglish. Below is our pick of the best.

  • “We two who and who.” Translation: “We are intimate friends.”
  • “If you want money, I have no; if you want life, I have one!” Translation: “I have no money. What I own is only one life.”
  • “One car come, one car go, two car pengpeng, one car died!” Translation: “Two cars collided, one of them was ruined.”
  • “Horse horse tiger tiger.” Translation: “Just so so”