Having worked as a professional interpreter and translator for more than a decade, it is not surprising that I have acquired a new hobby: collecting interesting translation signs. Thanks to many unknown, ingenious Chinese translators, or perhaps it’s the fault of machine translation, there has been a constant supply of translation errors, to entertain and educate those who are competent English speakers, native or otherwise. It is entertaining because you had no choice but to laugh. It is educating because you know that if you ever commit similar mistakes, you could be the laughing stock, and then the joke is on you!
As we know, humour is probably one of the most difficult things to translate from one culture to another, due to the complexities of languages as well as cultural nuances. It could be funny and witty in one language but could totally get lost in translation.
Some of the translation signs I am sharing here are funny, hilarious even, or weird, not because the ‘translator’ intended to deliver humour – they simply come out wrong, grammatically or they make little or no sense.
It is possible that English speaking people will have a good laugh when spotting some of these signs. Bilingual Chinese and English speakers probably find them most interesting, since we are the ones who can tell exactly why and how translation went wrong.
You see, it’s not always possible to translate word to word. A translator needs a great deal of knowledge of two different languages and a deeper understanding of two cultures to make a sensible and successful translation. It is not enough to simply understand what each word means in another language – a translator has to construct a meaningful message, which not only conveys what the original words/phrases/sentences try to say, but also makes perfect sense in another language. Any misunderstanding should be avoided.
I hope you are enjoying these little gems from China. You can see more at:Have a Hilarious #Holiday in #Beijing Which You’ll Never Forget; and How Good Are Your English Translations? Hilarious English Signs Around the World.