Tag Archives: Chinese translator

Chinese Train Stations Undergo Translation Overhaul

Currently in China, each train station offers an English and Chinese translation for each station location. That way, English-speaking travelers can make their way around more easily, and Chinese commuters can go about their day undisturbed. However, the Ministry of Railways has announced a major overhaul to this system. Instead of the two translations for each, every station will be in the Chinese written language pinyin. The language was developed in the 1950’s and is considered the standard way to write Chinese. Not only will the change make travel more confusing for English-speaking visitors, but it is also confusing for Chinese residents.

Translations Defy Logic

Foreigners and locals alike cannot figure out the reasoning behind the overhaul. The English translations at each station did not confuse Chinese people at all, so the change will only make it more difficult for foreign travelers. Few people outside of China know how to read Pinyin. These travelers will now need a Chinese translator to assist them in their journey. By making the journey more complicated for English-speaking travelers, the Ministry of Railways also makes it more arduous for Chinese travelers. They’ll constantly be pushing confused Americans out of the way and missing their trains to stop and help. For many, the decision simply defies logic.

The Overhaul is Costly

As if the imminent confusion that will be caused by the translations wasn’t enough, they will also be expensive. Every sign, ticket, book, website, brochure and timetable will have to be redesigned to feature the new pinyin translation. The train stations might even lose business because travelers might opt to get to their destination in other ways. They might fear the inconvenience of scrambling to pull up automated translation services on their phones at every stop to figure out where they’re going. For such an expensive renovation, it’s surprising that the Ministry of Railways didn’t give the translation more thought.

No one knows why exactly the translations are being made, but they are already well underway. Beijing South Railway Station, now known as Beijingnan Railway Station, has already been renovated. The signs are translated and the tickets have been reprinted. The confusing decision goes to show that sometimes, translations can make things more complicated than they need to be. Though having each station displayed in two languages was unsightly, it probably attracted more tourists. Now, those tourists better come prepared with a professional translator.

Finnegan’s Wake Soon to be Available in Chinese

Finnegan’s Wake, a novel by James Joyce, is considered one of the most difficult literary works in the English language. People find it difficult to read for a myriad of reasons, including a straying plot, idiosyncratic language, and strange portmanteaus. Some critics believe Joyce’s unique style for the work is supposed to imitate sleep and a dream-like state. Despite the difficulties to even read the work in its original language, a dedicated translator has completed a Chinese translation, and it will be available this month. Dai Congrong will release the translation of the first of five volumes through Shanghai People’s Publishing House.

Dai Offers Multiple Interpretations

Dai, an experienced Chinese translator, explained that she knew it would be an extremely difficult translation from the beginning, but that she also wanted to give Chinese people the opportunity to read such an incredible piece of literature. The translation took a full ten years, which is only seven years less than the length of time it took Joyce to write the original. At a seminar, Dai explained that she directly translated approximately half of the book, but offers multiple translations and footnotes for the other half. She hopes that these alternative options for translation will give readers a more open understanding instead of relying solely on Dai’s interpretation. For a book that Joyce said would take readers 300 years to understand, much is up to interpretation. The translation was in part so difficult because of the large number of portmanteaus. Joyce combined many words in the piece to make one new word, which cannot be found in any dictionary, or even in any other piece of literature. Dai had to dissect these portmanteaus one by one.

The Chinese Translation was Completed Faster than Others

Though ten years sounds like a long time to work on a single volume of a book series, Dai actually completed the translation in record time. The French translation of the complex fictional work took thirty years, and the German translation took nineteen. All things considered, Dai was actually speedy in her decade-long project.

Sometimes, sharing outstanding pieces of literature between two different cultures is difficult because the translation is daunting. Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake is certainly one of those daunting pieces. Luckily, there are dedicated professional translators like Dai all over the world willing to dedicate years of their life to better the cultural understanding of their society.

McDonalds’ Failed Attempt at Foreign Outreach

For companies that are nationally recognized, every move they make is in the public eye. McDonald’s especially is constantly under scrutiny in the United States as it fights against backlash from health professionals and organizations such as PETA. For that reason, their most recent billboard translation blunder is all over the news. You’d think that a company as large and powerful as McDonald’s could afford a higher quality professional translation service, but instead all they got was a botched billboard and public outrage. The billboard was put up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where there is the largest Hmong community in the United States.

Hmong Message Lost in Translation

Hmong are people from the mountainous regions of Vietnam, China, Laos, and Thailand. They are a sub-group of the Miao ethnicity, and there are many of them in St. Paul who still speak their native language.  The billboard, which appears in English all over the country, was supposed to say “coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going.” Hmong people in the area said that whatever professional translator assigned to the job clearly did not speak the language, as the message barely even made sense. It would be the equivalent of trying to read a sentence on a sign in English with no spaces between the words.

Message Was Not Offensive in Nature

While the Hmong community is offended that McDonald’s carelessly printed the incorrect translation, the message itself is not actually offensive. Lucky for McDonald’s, there were no bad words or symbols in the failed translation. However, you can’t blame the Hmong people in the area for feeling like McDonald’s must have skimped on their plan to reach out to the large but minority community and might have hired a Chinese translator with little knowledge of the Hmong dialect. McDonald’s officials released an apology for the blunder, announcing that they’ll repost the billboards with the correct translation within a week.

Even if you own a company that is on a smaller scale than McDonald’s, it is important that you get your translation right the first time when tailoring a special message. While you’re trying to make a certain community feel important by reaching out to them personally, you might end up offending them by proving you didn’t do your research. Even when communicating one-on-one with clients or business partners, make sure you hire a reputable business translation service to avoid any errors.