Friday, April 11, 2014

Funny Translations from Chinese to English

The hardest thing to convey to students, especially lower level ESL students, is not to use a translating dictionary to write in English. Here are some very funny examples of signs (you may need to click on the replay button for Gallery after you get to the first photo) that obviously don't say what was meant. Most (all?) of them are apparently mistranslations or literal translations from Chinese to English. We hope that no one was injured by following some of the directions.

Even though there may be some pretty good translating programs online, creating signs are a challenge even to native speakers. To avoid this kind of comedic representation of English, it is essential to have a native speaker of English or a bilingual bi-cultural speaker of Chinese and English verify the spelling and meanings of signs before they go up in public. I have no doubt that Americans translate to other languages in the same fashion as the Chinese. As I pointed out here, we don't even make signs very comprehensible to our own people.

I hope that we can, however, all enjoy the many colorful Englishes used around the world and appreciate the effort that non-native speakers of English (who far outnumber us native speakers of English!) make to apply or master our tongue.