Just Plain Moronic

December 8, 2008

I like to give a good balance on this blog, bit of praise, bit of China bashing but mostly just plain honesty.

The Chinese are not what you would call the most detail oriented people when it comes to language proofing in English. Chinglish is a national sport and the results can be hilarious or painful depending on how you view them and if they are costing your business money.

However, it is also nice to see that foreigners can get it wrong too.

I am not talking about the mistakes made by second year undergraduates of Chinese studies, goodness knows how many I have made in my time.

I am talking about the Max Planck Institute, a major German scientific institute that produces a magazine called MaxPlanckForschung.

This month their issue was all about China and as such they thought they would print the cover with a nice poem on it in Classical Chinese:


Unfortunately the poem on the cover is actually what seems to be a low-rent advert for a girly show. A rough translation found elsewhere on the internet might be:

“With high salaries, we have cordially invited for an extended series of matinées

KK and Jiamei as directors, who will personally lead jade-like girls in the spring of youth,

Beauties from the north who have a distinguished air of elegance and allure,

Young housewives having figures that will turn you on;

Their enchanting and coquettish performance will begin within the next few days.”

Personally I have a few issues with this translation but it’ll do as a rough idea. The days when I got too excited about classical Chinese are sadly long gone.

The magazine claims that they consulted a German Sinologist first but this seems a little doubtful unless the Sinologist in question was a first year student who either tried to read the characters from left to right (they should be read right to left top to bottom) or just saw that the characters are in full form and didn’t bother to try to read it properly.

Either way, I would strongly suggest that if you trade on your credibility then allowing the world to see such mistakes is hardly a smart move.

If you want your translations done properly and checked by people who know what they are doing please head over to my translation company, TranslateChineseNow and I will give you a 15% discount for being a reader of this blog plus deliver work of the utmost quality.

As a last note, many Chinese netizens have taken this as a national insult and are losing quite a bit of sleep over it. I’ll leave you to make up your own minds about just how much some of these people need to get out more.


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