Tag Archives: chinglish

Lost in translation

28 Feb

Recently we went to karaoke with friends.  I hadn’t gone for a long time and it was great to sing and have fun.  Our package for the evening included a certain amount of credit towards food and so I looked at the menu more closely than I have in a while.  There were the normal things – dumplings, popcorn, lots of different beverages.

Then, on one of the last pages, there were these two dishes.

Really bad translation

Really bad translation

In looking at the two translations, the only obvious problem is that garlic is spelled wrong.  However, if you look at the pictures, something is up.  Now that I know a little more Chinese, it becomes obvious that the translations are just wrong.

The first translation – peanuts with “galis” sauce should be pistachio nuts and the second – “Honeydewed sweet potato” should be cashews.  I have no idea who peer reviewed this menu, but obviously they did not do it very carefully.  Although, honeydewed sweet potato does sound interesting.

A lot of the “chinglish” that I’ve seen in Shanghai has disappeared over the last five years, I really think that the average English level here is excellent.  However, this fun night with friends reminded me that just around the corner, lots of fun examples still exist as long as I keep my eyes open!  The ironic thing is that just before I saw this page of the menu, I was telling my friends that I thought the English song selection at this particular karaoke place was the best I had seen in Shanghai.

Have you seen any strange translations lately?


Follow-up post on Travel Theme: Signs

11 Sep

As I was going through my photos looking for something else, I found two more signs that fit very well into the Signs post that I posted several weeks ago.  They were taken when my family visited China in the summer of 2008 when we were taking a cruise down the Yangzte river towards the Three Gorges Dam.

Should you be scared when the “Look out!” is taped on with masking tape?

The first sign was literally taped to the tiny balcony of my room on the boat.  The Chinese is something more like please pay attention and be safe, but the English is definitely more aggressive.  At the time I couldn’t read the characters so we looked very carefully around to see what we need to look out for.  Looking back it’s even funnier now that I know what the sign says.

How can a sign prevent you from turning over?

The second sign was posted along the dam itself.  I believe from the picture that it is telling you not to jump over the edge but the translation really doesn’t share that same urgency.

Has anyone reading been there more recently? I wonder if these signs are still in place or they have been edited to be a little more enlightening.

Any other signs that you’ve seen lately?

Travel theme: Signs

16 Aug

Last week my post on leading lines got lots of comments and when I saw this week’s theme at Where’s my Backpack? I knew that I would have to join up again.  The theme is signs.

Living in China I have the opportunity to see all kinds of signs that I typically wouldn’t see at home.  The ones I find the most amusing are the signs where the English translation either makes me shake my head or is entirely misleading.  I went through my pictures from the last couple of years to pull together these four signs that continue to make me laugh each time I look.

There’s a lot to be said for a good peer reviewer!  Sometimes I think that if the corporate world becomes too much, I should just charge for proof reading services.  Given these examples – I think there’s a market.

In chronological order:

Export what?

This photo was taken in October of 2010 in Hangzhou, a day trip from Shanghai. It is a major tourist destination for foreigners and Chinese alike with the most famous attraction being the peaceful and serene West Lake.  The Chinese on the sign very clearly says Exit (出口) but somehow the English turned into Export.  Actually 出口 has two meanings in Chinese, one of which is Export, but that doesn’t make any sense here.

So I can litter as long as it doesn’t kill anyone?

This photo was taken during my team outing in June 2011 to Zhangjiajie, Hunan province and was posted on the window/balcony of my hotel room which was on a higher floor.  I know the intent was more of don’t throw things off of the balcony, but this translation doesn’t really capture that.  In Zhangjiajie’s defense – it is an up and coming tourist site made much more popular after the movie Avatar and when we went there were more Korean tourists than other western faces.  On that note though – the sign above has no Korean translation.

I am way too tall!

Taken on a weekend trip to Shenzhen in November 2011, we were touring a large Russian air craft carrier which is permanently docked in the bay.  From the photo you can see that it is not likely that I will be seeking employment on a submarine any time soon, but the sign really made me crack up.

The Chinese stated there is very, very common (当心碰头)and can be found in every single subway station and above most escalators where there is an overhang.  I’d translate it as “Careful of hitting your head” or “Watch your head” so the “Beware…” added an extra smile to my face.  When is the last time you saw the world “Beware” in an English speaking country?

I still don’t understand this one – the English really doesn’t make sense

My final contribution was taken this past June and is in Sheshan, on the outskirts of Shanghai, where there is an observatory and Shanghai’s oldest Catholic church.  From the picture it looks like this is a place to throw rubbish, but the Chinese is – please don’t litter here.  It’s another variation on my “killer littering” above, except even less clear.  I don’t know how a foreigner is supposed to interpret this, but it definitely made my day!

Which sign is your favorite?

If you’d like to see other people’s interpretations of the travel theme, please click on the Where’s My Backpack link at the beginning of the post.

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