Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lost in Translation

For my birthday in October, one of the gifts I received was Lost in Translation by Charlie Croker. It’s a funny collection of odd English phrases and sentences from around the world. Some of the mistakes come from bad translations, but many are simply due to people trying to write in English even though their language skills aren’t quite up to it.

A Chinese hotel tells guests: “We serve you with hostiality.” A Japanese shopping bag offers this message: “Now baby. Tonight I am feeling cool and hard boiled.” In the Czech Republic, people are warned: “No smoothen the lion.” An Australian dish is “dumping soup” while an Indian restaurant includes “Aborigines” in their brinjal bhaji and a Greek dish is “chopped cow with a wire through it and bowels in sauce.” Yum.

This is a light, fun book that made me giggle. I wish people took translation more seriously but if they did, we wouldn’t have these mistakes to laugh at.


Sarah said...

Hi, B.J.,

Great blog.

This post reminds me of the fact that when I say I'm a translator, quite often people ask if I translate menus for a living. Maybe it's because for many people – especially British people – , their only experience of a translated text is when they read funny English menus on holiday.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks, Sarah!
Yes, I think you're right -- people often only think about translation when they're on holiday, and then it's in the context of seeing bad/incorrect menu translations, or translations in museums or at other sites, or in hotels, etc.
Best wishes,

Shannon said...

If people would only finally realise how important it is to let professional translators translate, as there are thousands of examples like that. Of course a small Romanian restaurant in the middle of nowhere won't hire a translation agency for a couple of phrases, but still, there might be guests coming from abroad who might feel mucked around.