Lost in Translation

Chinese people don’t always get their English translations correct, and sometimes the result is quite funny.  At other times, the language is correct but the meaning seems odd to someone who isn’t from the Chinese culture.  Here are some of my favorite observations about the English language in China (you can click the image to see it larger):

Observation #1: There must be a lot of bad translators at work here.

“Will never change until dsgth” — Maybe they mean “until death?”

“ftaillan for the sweet life” — Italians have a sweet life?

“Give bands out water” — If you put your hands out, the water comes automatically

Observation #2: Some titles that sound beautiful or logical in Mandarin just don’t sound elegant in English.

The name of a foot massage place: “Foot Health Museum Road Naomi”

I think my favorite is “Corn butter beautiful soup” or “Thai Bird’s Nest Full Set of 100 Yuan”

In the USA, we often try to be a little more subtle about where we lock up our valuables. This hotel apparently didn’t worry about that, since this is how they labeled the door.

Observation #3: As an American, I have different expectations for “normal” than the Chinese.  Some things that might seem obvious to me appear to need clarification in China.

“No spitting:” because people spit on the ground everywhere here, even indoors

“Danger: Jumping into the tunnel is forbidden” (and if you jump under a moving train, it’s probably deadly too).

Observation #4: There appear to be people here who make “fakes” of everything.  Need any designer clothing or bags? You could get some here, but who knows if the quality will be good or bad?

KFC and UFF — perhaps not a coincidence that they look so similar?

Even the “Judy Moody” children’s books are faked (there’s no such thing as “July Noodle” but everything else is the same.

Observation #5: Maybe I’ll never know what’s going on sometimes.

I don’t know why I was supposed to wear a “defence mask” while walking down this street, but I walked quickly past this.

I’ve been collecting these over the past few weeks, but if people are interested, I’ll try to capture some more for another post. I find them pretty entertaining myself.

Categories: China

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12 replies »

  1. Well, what do you know?

    I’m not all too surprised about the errors in the translations, since I’ve seen signs like the ones you pictured up above when I was in China. To be honest, I find them kind of funny myself! But I feel bad for the Chinese people, most of them (I think) don’t even know if the English translation is appropriate.
    Even so, I think the one I found the funniest is the “Give band out water” one!
    I’m curious to know more about the last picture. I clicked on it to make it bigger and read the labels. I don’t get why you’re supposed to wear a defense mask too. Even less about wearing your seat belt. I mean, you were walking right? Can you tell me more about the street you were on?

    By the way, are you still in Fangshan? If so, my dad found out that there’s a terrible rainstorm there, and many roads are flooded. Are you safe Ms. Krakauer?

    Stay Safe!!!!
    ~ Anna

    • Hi Anna — I’m back in Beijing, in the city. Yes, there were terrible rainstorms. I did go out in that weather, but mostly I just walked through giant puddles and got dirty, so nothing too unsafe. I did hear that the air quality was particularly bad that day, but I couldn’t really tell. In the evening, the storms got worse, and I stayed in and had dinner in the hotel, so we were safe. Also, yesterday, I went to one of the restaurants that your mom recommended, and my next post will be about that 🙂 Thanks for all your comments!

  2. i am curious about those signs with the superman (??) and the mask (????) . THe Americans may never know.

    • We saw that sign again today. It’s outside of public restrooms! How bizarre! I don’t know why they recommend wearing your safety belt into the bathroom, but it makes me laugh to see that sign. The smell is so bad at the bathrooms, so maybe they just pull out every warning sign they can find. Who knows?

      • did you notice above those signs there is a sign that says “warning daop down”?

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