Category Archives: Chinglish

Translation

Translating is necessary to everyday life.  I have multiple apps on my phone to help me get by (CamDictionary to translate characters; Waygo to translate menus more accurately; Pieco dictionary and Jibbigo, which I don’t use as much, plus Google translate on the computer).  But translation is always difficult, and translating between languages that are as different as Chinese and English is particularly difficult, leading to what is popularly known as Chinglish (I wonder whether there is an equivalent Englese for botched English-Chinese translations).

Chinglish can be created by machines as well as people, as anyone who has used google translate to shop on taobao knows well

google translate of a taobao shop.  All items on taobao translate as "babies"

google translate of a taobao shop. 

In addition to the vomiting price and the wire (yarn) presented here, all items on taobao are curiously translated as “babies” by google translate, making all transactions feel like illegal adoptions.

Most examples of Chinglish, however, although they may have been created by machine translation, are used only after vetting by humans.  The label on this mosquito netting is not untypical, and I suspect is a literal translation that, as you can see, fails utterly.  All I get from this is that it might be fancy since the word palace is there.

What may be too literal a translation, describing a mosquito curtain for a queen bed.

What may be too literal a translation, describing a mosquito curtain for a queen bed.

Some are in part curious concepts, like this sign on Pingjiang Lu

bearing capacity

Aside from the interesting idea of instant utmost bearing capacity, which I think I’ve hit once or twice in the last week, these are astonishingly high numbers.  I think this sign is saying that 40 million people could visit Pingjiang Road in one day, which is hard to imagine, even after experiencing Shanghai during October golden week.

Many seem to have to do with creating positive associations, although I am really not sure whether blond supermarkets have more fun

DSC04026

Sometimes the associations go entirely haywire, however.

Rather a nice fruity tisane, although I do wonder when I drink it whether this means I have given up on my hopes and aspirations.

Rather a nice fruity tisane, although I do wonder when I drink it whether this means I have given up on my hopes and aspirations.

Some of the most spectacular Chinglish are examples of malapropisms, of the sort you can find posted in any country. Someone who kind of knows English tries using a slightly fancy word but accidentally uses a different one, just like Mrs. Malaprop, a character in the 1775 play The Rivals.  I do believe this one we found at a foreign food grocery last spring outdoes anything Mrs. Malaprop ever says, however.

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Because of course, nothing makes you have to pee quite as much as a closed grocery store.

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Filed under China, Chinglish