Have you ever cringed at the bad English of Hong Kong and China? It is pretty hard to avoid. It seems like the real challenge for Chinese writers is not their lack of vocabulary (in fact, many English phrases can be expressed in simple, Chinese words), but errors caused by direct translation out of cultural and literal context. This has created a new language called “Chinglish“.
This pain inflicted by mistranslation is even greater when posted publicly–if you think that Google Translate does a good enough job, you’d be wrong. This should give you a few ideas about the absurdly translated signs in Chinglish:
1. The Butcher
”Under Construction” becomes “Execution in Progress”. Next time when you drop by a construction site, beware of the bloody floor and broken limbs scattered around.
2. The Reckless Driver
“No Drunken Driving” or “Do Drunken Driving”? You can drive your boss back home, but only after a shot of Vodka. The graphic here is also fairly strange. What are the red orbs supposed to be? Olives for your dirty martini? Remember, never invite your proofreader friends to drink when they are rushing for a deadline.
3. The Lazy
“Cafeteria” yields “Translate server error.” Opening a new restaurant is a lot of work. You have to arrange the menus, set the right lighting and figure out the best ingredients; this only gives the you enough time to put your restaurant’s Chinese name into Google Translate, but not enough time to check the result: Translate Server Error (please refresh the screen and try again). Hey. Lazy people finish first for a reason.
4. The Skater
The government tried to protect you, but they tell you to “slip carefully” instead of “beware of the slippery hill”. What is the most careful way that you can slip? Do you have a pair of skates?
5. The Polygyny Addict
“My Favourite Wife” is just a more honest way of saying “My Dearest Wife”? You shouldn’t pick favorites. The other 200+ wives are going to be pissed.
6. ………………….. (The Speechless)
This translation happened because the word “干” means both words: “dry” in standard Mandarin and “fxxk” in Mandarin slang. What I’m thinking is that, the software for this translation must be fairly robust. It can even translate Chinese slang!
Do you trust English signs in China? This is what happens when property owners do not know English and do not hire native English speakers! Next time you go to a restaurant, you should be careful and double check the “Toilet” or “Exit” signs.
Chinglish is becoming more and more popular as the number of Chinese people learning English grows in response to globalization. This topic has even been put on the Broadway stage (see here).
If you have any hilarious Chinglish sings to share, post a comment here!
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in seeing how Chinese people use the English language for their name, you can read my article about What Are the Weird English Names of Chinese People?.
(All the images above are from TD, micgadget.com and china-mike.com)