Abstract: Public signs refer to the language intended for the public which offers public information for the purpose of instructing or facilitating their lives. It is indicated that public signs include indicators, way-finding boards, slogans, public notices, warning, the directions in tourist sites, the general simple directions on the packages of food. These public signs play an indispensable role in public life by functioning as directive, restrictive and compelling pragmatic texts. However, the translation of public signs is still non-standard and even represented with typical mistakes. This paper, based on functionalist approach, with the analyses of examples of mistranslations, tries to find out appropriate translation methods according to the functions of public signs. It is found that skopos theory can be practically applied in the translation of public signs. It is then argued that what determines and governs the translation process of public signs is the purpose of the entire translation act which allows flexible choice of translation methods.
Key words: public signs; translation; functionalist approach
Translation is a highly interactive process. The purpose of translating the Chinese signs is to make the foreigners have an enjoyable stay in China rather than confuse them by using ungrammatical and illogical public signs. This purpose goes along with the functionalist approach of translation. On the basis of different functions, public signs fall into directive and promptive, restrictive and compelling public signs. According to skopos theory, these types of public signs are designed to be informative and operative. The translation of Chinese public signs should serve these functions. Thus good translation of public signs is not decided by whether the target text can faithfully render the source text, but whether the original functions of source text can be realized by the target text. And the translator is justified to use such effective translation strategies as creation and adaptation to achieve the intended functions of the source text.