Expats' Life

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  • Stories in Dongguan

    'Picky' foreigner asking for a change



    Fernando finds that there are still some spelling mistakes on the road signs of Dongguan's 225 km long Greenway.


    What would you do if you were traveling through a strange new city and were unfortunately misled by the ambiguous road signs? Would you call your friends, share with them this bad experience, curse it and pray for better luck next time? Or would you tell yourself to stay calm and forget about it? After all, this is the most common thing any newcomer may encounter.


    Fernando Munoz, a Colombian language expert who has been in Dongguan for 10 years and calls himself a 'Xin Guan Ren' (literally new Dongguanese, a term used to refer to migrant workers in Dongguan), has a different approach.


    In 2006, Fernando was invited to join the Dongguan Committee for the International Liveable Communities Awards as the sole foreign language consultant. During the preparatory work, he gradually got to know many aspects of the city such as its history, culture and heritage. It was a striking contrast to what Dongguan was in his mind up until then -"the world's factory"- a city crowded with a number of industrial firms. With the combined efforts from Fernando and the Committee, Dongguan achieved the Gold Award at the event. "It feels good to be part of the city," said Fernando, who clearly hopes to contribute more towards improving Dongguan's image.


    In 2007, the English translation of road signs, a big issue for large cities, caused a stir throughout China and Fernando realized that there was one more thing he could do for the city — check road signs in Dongguan and ask the government to correct them. For three consecutive weeks that year, in his spare time and on his own dime, he drove around the downtown area taking pictures of road signs with incorrect use of English.


    Fernando collected different pictures of the problematic road signs and other advertisements. Finally "Dongguan Road Sign Problems and Solution", a categorized compilation of these pictures, came from the printers and Fernando hoped one day he could present it to the pertinent authorities in Dongguan. In the book, Fernando classified the problems into five categories according to his findings, improper use of word, incorrect translation, misspelling, literal translation, and inconsistency.


    In July of 2010, his book aroused the attention from the city's Transportation Bureau after Nanfang Metropolis Daily ran a story on Fernando's work. Within a few days, he finally got the chance to present his book to the transportation authorities. "At the meeting it was said that Dongguan road signs would be corrected by the end of 2010", said Fernando.