Tag: engrish


04

Mar 2014

Translation Challenges: Roof Repair

I recently spotted this sign on the stairs leading to the roof of the AllSet Learning office building:

Caution

Here’s the Chinese text:

> 屋顶检修中暂停使用谢谢

Literally, that’s:

> rooftop / examine and repair / in the middle of,
temporarily stop / use; usage,
thank you!

The translation offered:

> The roof is during maintenance. Stop using temporarily. Thank you!

The translation, while not great, is understandable. What stood out to me, though, were two issues frequently encountered in Chinese signs which can give translators a hard time:

1. Use of after a verb
2. Signage etiquette

First let’s look at the first part: 屋顶检修中. The translator was on the right track with “during” for , and in adding “to be” into the English (its absence in Chinese is key to the difficulty of the translation), and also in converting the Chinese 检修 verb to a noun form for the English. But it still came out weird, because the translation demands a certain amount of linguistic flexibility with the concept behind . It’s hard to come up with a stock translation for this that’s going to work in most cases. “During,” “in the middle of,” “in progress,” “underway,” “undergoing,” “in the midst of,” “currently” are all possibilities, but they’re certainly not easy for a non-native speaker to choose between, and not all are prepositions or prepositional phrases, either.

For the second part, 暂停使用, although the English is correct, it doesn’t contain the necessary degree of politeness we expect and demand from our signage in the English-speaking world. Chinese signs, while formal, just don’t feel as polite, and everyone is cool with that.

I have to give the translator props for converting the Chinese commas into periods in English, though. The Chinese “legal run-on” sentence being translated into an (unacceptable) run-on sentence in English is one of the most common mistakes made by beginner Chinese-English translators.

Anyway, a better translation would be something like:

> The rooftop is currently undergoing repairs. Please do not use it at this time. Thank you!

Obviously, that can be polished more.

It’s easy to laugh at bad Engrish, but in this case there’s nothing funny, and difficulties translating from Chinese to English (that go beyond simple word choice) can be indicative of difficulties that learners of Chinese will face with Chinese.


12

Apr 2011

Engrish Bookbag

I’m used to seeing Engrish on t-shirts and on signs, but this is the first time I’ve seen Engrish on a bookbag, apparently designed to be read by the people behind the wearer.

Engrish Bookbag

How about a closeup of that Engrish?

Engrish Bookbag (closeup)

I have to admit, following this guy, I did enjoy the time in spring, and I appreciated to read it. I elected to skip the bathing, but this bag did bring a smile to my face.


26

Mar 2011

More Machine Translation Menu Fun

OK, I know, it’s been done before, and it’s just so easy. There are many menus in China with bad (and often hilarious) English translations. But even after all these years, this one stood out to me because (1) it is otherwise an extremely high quality menu, and (2) the errors are of a somewhat bizarre nature, rather than centering on horribly inappropriate mistranslations of the character [more on that here and here].

Anyway, here are some samples (apologies for the quality!):

Roast pork bag

Where pathology and cuisine meet:

Carrots for the corn from what virus

Have make any bacteria

Halogen? (Another meaning of )

Spiced halogen three

A bunch of them have really weird endings (I think the machine translated names have been truncated):

Pomelo the smell of

Bouquet steamed fish when

It smell of cooking rice stuffed with

Member of the bamboo and

'd better meat with a te

This last one is my favorite, because it comes across almost poetic:

Taken meat dishes broken string beans

> taken meat
dishes broken
string beans

Indeed.

You can find more of the menu here.


Update:

In case you’re interested, the restaurant is called 炖品世家, or “Aristocratic Family of Soup.” (Oh yes, this is clearly a restaurant that has some fun with the English language!) The restaurant is in Shanghai, near the intersection of Kangding Road and Wanhangdu Road (康定路万航渡路). A photo:

Aristocratic Family of Soup

Also, a big thanks to Will, who introduced this resturant to me and provide the above photo and address.