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The only D grade I got in college was in my French class. I should’ve gotten an F, but I think the professor feared that if he failed me, I might take his class again.
So I’m in no position to criticize anyone who’s trying to grapple with foreign-language translations. Therefore, I say “blessings on you” to the Chinese government for trying to tidy up the many mistranslations that occur when Chinese meets English.
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Their impetus is next year’s summer Olympics in China, when half-a-million foreigners will arrive in their land, many of them English-speaking. Some of China’s pubic signs and menus already have English translations, but… well, they’re a bit mangled. For example, they won’t get many visitors to “Racist Park,” unless they find a better term to describe this theme park, which extolls China’s minority cultures.
Also, few will want to have a plate of “Crap in the grass” – until the menu is re-worded to read, “Carp in the Grass.” Likewise, many will pause before ordering “Pockmarked Grandma Chen’s Tofu.” Might be tasty… but let’s rethink the wording.
Then there’s a sign at a popular tourist site that offers contorted instructions: “Coming and going in turn and don’t stretch out your head to watch please.” Polite… but, what? Another sign warns of a wet floor: “The Slippery Are Very Crafty.” Actually, if that was placed on the floors of the U.S. Capitol building, we Americans would understand it perfectly and be on guard against lurking lobbyists.
Not only are the Chinese going all out to get its English right on signs and menus, they are also attempting to teach 300 English phrases to 48,000 taxi drivers. Can you imagine trying to teach Chinese to American taxi drivers?
This is Jim Hightower saying… So we have no room to laugh at garbled translations abroad. In fact, we Texans have a hard time speaking the English language – just ask George W.
“Beijing minding its ‘Chinglish’ as Olympics loom,” Austin American-Statesman, February 11, 2007.