Monday, February 18, 2008

How Chinglish is created

This is the cover of an exercise book. Decorations of this nature - both the weird pictures and the bizarrely combative slogans (if your eyes aren't quite up to it, the speech bubble emanating from the 'angry' glass of water says: "Soil bean, you want to fuck what?") - are almost obligatory on such items. It is very difficult to buy any stationery in this country that doesn't make you look like a complete twat. I generally stock up on A4 pads (completely unknown here) and Moleskin notebooks when I'm back in the UK.

I picked this example up from Brendan O'Kane's blog. Brendan is an occasional drinking companion who stopped by here last week with some contributions for the 'possible band names' game (thanks). He is a formidably bright young man and one of the best translators in the business; his Chinese language ability is quite daunting, outstripping that of most native Chinese. This work, alas, keeps him so busy that he doesn't have all that much time for a social life or for blogging. However, it is worth checking out his blog every once in a while; he may not post very often, but it's usually diverting stuff when he does. This post, explaining how hilarious mistranslations such as the one above come about, is particularly worth reading.


Anonymous said...

bizarro! will have to check out brendan's blog, later.

i imagine this cuts both ways. when I was a kid, t-shirts with hanzi characters were quite popular, but no one knew what they meant. I refused to wear clothing spouting a language I couldn't read. I bet the 1 hanzi-literate family in my State just sat around the table every dinner and had giggle-fits recounting the silly t-shirts they'd encountered that day.

Unknown said...

Hey - thanks for the link. I liked your post about Harbin: it's been ages since I was last back there, and I really should make another effort to give the city a fair shake after a long year of hating the place.

Froog said...

I seem to know so many laowai who "started out" in Harbin, Brendan - but who are mightily glad to have escaped.

It has a special place in my heart (a 'huge relief'-shaped place) because the first job I was offered in China was there, and I so nearly took it, but..... I think it was a classic case of one of their foreign teachers having gone loco in the middle of the long winter, and they wanted a replacement at - I kid you not - 5 days' notice. Hello - visa, jabs, notice on current job, notice on current apartment, saying goodbye to family , etc..... 5 weeks would be pretty brisk; 5 days, no way.

But that was what started me thinking about China again - after I'd nearly got it out of my system.