After my latest long-distance bus adventure in China, traveling from Putuoshan to Hangzhou last week, I decided it might be useful to start a Chinese Signs series in order to firstly, brush up on my own Chinese, and secondly, to try and share a few new characters for those who are living or travelling in China and attempting to learn some of the language in the meantime.
In the course of my China travels, I’ll be looking for commonly encountered signs that I think it will be useful for any China traveller or budding language learner to be able to read and understand. There’s not going to be any hilarious Chinglish here or anything like that, but I will try and find some that may, upon translation, amuse or confuse in equal measure. For now, however, we’re serious students, so no messing about at the back of the class.
Our first Chinese sign is fairly straightforward, and if you are lucky enough to see it, please please please follow its advice lest you end up sucked out of the window of a crashing bus.
Wèile nín de ānquán qǐng jì hǎo ānquándài
For the sake of your safety invite fasten good safety belt
为了(wèile) is generally used to mean “in order to”, “regarding” or “for the purpose of” and is generally used at the beginning of signs to indicate polite requests. For example, “为了 not blocking the toilet, please put toilet paper in the bin.” Or, “为了saving electricity, please turn off the air-con when you leave the room.”
安全 (ānquán), meaning safe or safety, is a word you hear and see a lot when travelling in China. 注意安全 (zhùyì ānquán), “pay attention to safety”. 安全带 (ānquándài), therefore, following directly from the English, means safety belt.
Using 好 after a verb, such as in 系好 (jì hǎo), indicates the successful accomplishment of an action, often to add emphasis. We can say, for example, 你的作业做好吗? (nǐ de zuòyè zuò hǎo ma?), “Have you done your homework properly?” We can ask kids to, 坐好 (zuòhǎo), “Sit properly.” Or ask in a hotel if the room is ready yet, 房间准备好吗? (fángjiān zhǔnbèi hǎo ma?).