Sunday, July 05, 2009

Welcome Back To Read My Blog Again

It's wrong to complain about something unless you are willing to do something to change it. This has been my philosophy about Chinese translation of English language since we moved here.

In America, it drives me crazy when I see words misspelled in public places. Take a sign I once saw on one of the House of Representatives' buildings on Capitol Hill, where "handicapped accessible" was written "handicapped acessible." This is a government building, for goodness sake!

Or, in a department store, where "separates" (meaning tops and pants) was spelled, in big, bold letters, "seperates." Ayou!

Did I write letters to Congress or K-Mart's board of directors? No. But I should put that on my to-do list!

In China, spelling is the least of their worries. Phrases like, "Mind Your Head," which can be seen anywhere there is an overhang, or, my personal favorite, "Please Take the Initiative for Bringing Invalidity Pregnant Parks," as seen on the 114 bus, are common. My though is always...Why aren't native English speakers hired to approve English signs?

Let me start by saying that I don't think it's at all necessary for there to be English signs in China. But, if China is going to welcome it's foreign guests in this way (while also providing some English language learning, practice, and reinforcement for its own citizens), the phrases should at least be close to correct.

It was rumored that Beijing tried hard to correct some of the worst signs before the Olympics, by hiring individuals to proofread. Still, there so many signs (and even public transit announcements) that use Chinglish, that it may take forever to edit this country!

So what can I do about this?

Long story short, a man at a bus stop approached a family of waiguoren (that's us!), and asked if we would assist him with his job. You see, he is working for a publisher who is writing and recording English learning books. At first, his main interest was in having Z and me record the books (as the conversations depicted in the books are between a mother and son), but then his focus changed a bit, as we actually heard him out.

"Can you take a look at the manuscript, and see if there are any difficulties with the translation?"

In an effort to follow through on my aforementioned commitment, I volunteered to assist.

Around six hours, one green highlighter, and a pen later, I was ready to hand back the edited copy. The translations really needed a lot of help. They ranged from disturbing to hysterical. There were Chinglish phrases, some phrases where I had no idea of the meaning, a few eye rollers, and, perhaps most shocking, was a selection of vulgar phrases, spanning various topics. it was if the publisher had no idea of the meanings...Especially given that these books are meant for mostly young English learners.

Here are a few of our personal favorites...

Big in, ther's plenty for everyone.

It's jake with me.

The willows burgeoned forth.

Cute naked guy is really starting to put on weight.

Peck at your dinner.

Over yourself up with a quilt.

Erode with the teeth.

Welcome to put forward your views.

I want to hit the kip.

Zowie, that was close.

Little pumpkin head.

He went to stool.

Silence prevailed.

And those "others" I mentioned...

Take a p***.

You're a pain the a**.

Chicken s***.

It hurts like h***!

This one's really bad...

Oh, what's that? It stinks. Your a******* smell awful.

And last, but not least...

I don't want to ride the b****. (I have no idea what this means, either, but it was in the "Wear Your Seatbelt" section.)

In the end, I was rewarded with two hundred kuai and a second manuscript that was equally needy. Same deal, two hundred fifty pages, six hours, and, well, a raise to three hundred kuai!

The true reward, though, was being able to make my contribution to the next generation of English language learners. If I can just get a few new speakers to say "Watch Your Head" instead of "Mind Your Head," or, more importantly, "Come Again" instead of "Welcome You Back to Our Store Again," then I have really accomplished something!

Now, about my Chinese...



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