China is an amazing place. It’s like entering a different world. Sure, in the bigger cities the streets and subways are always packed to the brim, but the culture (for the most part) is breath-taking.
The Chinese to English translations you see over there can also be breath-taking. Some will take your breath away with laughter, whereas others will make you gasp because of how rude, racist, or unsanitary they are.
These slang translations slip in everywhere. Don’t miss them.
Here are some of the best we’ve found from around the web, from innocent to making you cringe. Don’t be like these companies – if you’re not fluent in a country’s language, hire Bubbles Translation Services to make your marketing materials flawless.
#1 – When translators make innocent (but unprofessional) mistakes…
Amateur translators will often make mistakes. They’re not bad people by any means, but swear words can disguise themselves as regular words. For example, did you know that bunda means a** in Portuguese? We’re not sure if this high-end jewellery store in Australia would know!
We’ve omitted some of the more risqué from the list, but one worth mentioning was a classic case of not understanding slang, idioms or colloquialism.
If you add to “菜” to make it “干菜”, it means dried vegetables. Then you add the “类” symbol to mean “type.” So 干菜类 is dried vegetables section. But the Chinese character 干 is slang for the “F” word – making the sign a lot less suitable for consumption.
You can see the logic and empathise with their error – but we just can’t understand this one….
#2 – Would you want to grab that?
This is an example of letting a friend or colleague do your translations for you. If you leave translating to amateur linguists or store owners, they will make mistakes…
…kind of like this one did:
#3 – “Whatever we feel like…”
Language barriers are confusing. Sometimes, so confusing that you have no idea what you’re purchasing…
We don’t think too many people are going to be ordering the Whatever.
#4 – An example of how offensive one letter can be
“Close enough” should not be in any translator’s vocabulary.
Just one letter changes the dynamic of fresh, delicious food into… well, something else.
#5 – It’s better fresh, right?
This sign is selling undoubtedly fresh fish, and advertising it as faeces. But hey, at least the faeces is fresh… right?
#6 – What’s in this dish, exactly?
The “Whatever” is a risky choice. Cat ears and rotten children, though? Not something that anyone would order – ever.
#7 – Thanks… I think?!
Sometimes amateur translators get lucky. This terrible error seems to be a compliment to the reader, but on closer inspection it’s encouraging something less than sanitary!
#8 – Did the chef have a bad experience in a German kitchen?
We’re just not sure what’s in this dish, but we hope there were no German tourists staying at the Quan Sheng Hotel…
#9 – And the “least-popular chef’s special” award goes to…
Apparently, this restaurant serves faeces on a stick. We think it’s safe to say that it’s not getting as many orders as the others on the menu…
#10 – As politically incorrect as humanly possible
Certain words are offensive to certain groups of people and this is an incredibly offensive example of when dictionary definitions, literal translation and a lack of native speaking social awareness falls down. For example, even though the word “retarded” could be viewed a very literal definition of a mental handicap, it’s culturally unacceptable and shouldn’t be used by any respectable business.
When referencing the physically disabled, neither should “deformed”.
#11 – Thanks, but no thanks.
This sign means well – it’s trying to tell customers to ask for help. But in the way they’ve worded it, the sign reads more like something in a sex shop.
#12 – Really? In Public?
This sign itself funny, especially as we often find ourselves talking about “health and safety gone mad!” However, the information is probably vital to anyone traveling in the area. By having a translation error on it, someone could get hurt, and that could leave the business liable to a lawsuit.
#13 – Pure, unadulterated chaos
Not even close.
Popping a phrase into an automatic translator will sometimes yield the correct translation, but more often than not, it misses the mark by a long shot.
Sometimes it even goes so far as to spit out a seemingly incoherent phrase like this one, and you’ll have no idea because you’re not fluent in the language!
#14 – Cute yes… Clear? Not at all!
We’re picturing grass dreaming about a sunny day. We think the sign is telling people to stay off of the grass, but someone might absentmindedly or even deliberately think that it’s just a joke and step on the grass anyway!
#15 – Next stop: Racist Park
Definitely not somewhere that you’d bring your kids…
#16 – You’re going to need a new brand name…
Translation errors on smaller products can be fixed without too much effort, but what if your actual brand name has an error in it? You’ve immediately dug yourself a hole, and in this case, alienated everyone who respects human rights.
#17 – Best tagline ever?
The first two sentences aren’t bad. Sure, not incredibly enticing, but they tell you what the business is about in very simple terms.
The last two sentences will make you scratch your head. Just how many human lives have they taken? And do you want to be next?
#18 – What exactly are you serving to your guests?
Very few of these menu items would make any sense to someone who spoke English.
#19 – More genuinely confusing signs
This advertisement leads readers to believe that the company sells meat past its best. No further explanation necessary, we’ll give it a miss!
#20 – And finally, some complete gibberish
Some of the translations on this list have made a little bit of sense, but this one makes none whatsoever.
Here it is.
If you’re reading this – please help us decipher it and leave a comment below!
So the lesson learned from this is simple, if you don’t use experienced professional translators, you won’t get translations that are accurate and truly convey the context of your message.
These imperfections are often from literal translations, or the use of website translation tools. They are more common than you think. True, they can be funny, or, they can be disgusting, and in some cases, they can even be hazardous.
If you’re thinking of moving your business into China (or any foreign country), ask Bubbles Translation Services for a quote to ensure that you don’t make the same translation mistakes that these poor businesses did.