Lost in Translation

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as we move away from tourist-friendly areas, the familiarity with native speakers to English goes downhill. Rural China didn’t have a whole lot of English. It was definitely been the most difficult place for us language-wise. Taiwan has been better, but there is still generally less English than the countries in South East Asia.  Google translate saved our necks more than a few times. We were prepared for this, since our Chinese-language abilities go little beyond ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘toilet’ (the most important), but English difficulties can still keep things entertaining.

We aren’t the only ones who have trouble with the Chinese to English translation. China and Taiwan are full of ridiculous and hilarious translations, on everything from menus to store names. We have no idea what app they are using to translate things, or if they even attempted to proof-read, but more often than not things just don’t come out right. So in this special edition of Canuck Walkabout, we bring you our favourite English language errors!

Warning sign on a hiking path.
Not sure what an “extruded snack” is (top right sign), but its probably not a toothbrush, toothpaste or shampoo.
Inspirational, like a Beatles lyric.
There is so much motivational stationary.
This one is essentially “only you can prevent forest fires”.
We shared the beef mound mound, with a couple of acid milks to wash it down.
This sort of thing is alarmingly common. It seems to be enough just to have some English on a package, regardless of whether it makes any sense whatsoever.  Or in this case, they don’t realize they’ve left ‘Fill in the blank’ as their name, and stocked all grocery stores like this.
The Dali Old Town has stream running through it, with signs like this all over.
To be fair, this one doesn’t look like a translation error.  But the literal translation made us laugh.
This one is actually in Malaysia, but there is a translation from Chinese so we think it counts. Needless to say, we didn’t end up liberating any turtles.
So…we can enter…or we can’t?
Not exactly a translation error, but a hilariously bizarre use of the English language.
We treasure good bread. Good bread is hard to find in Asia.

And what about stores? Surely if you’ve gone to the effort of having a nice sign made up for your place of business, you’ve also checked the spelling and grammar….

Is this…a children’s aviation school?


For all your floral and…explosive needs.
This might be the best one of this whole post. You should probably stop reading now.
If only for place had been open. Would love to know what goes on in the meteor department in this small Tibetan town.
So, like…rug burns?
This may be an attempt at ‘Tour in Sichuan taste in depth’


China is full of fake New Balance stores. We thought this was real and they just use a different name in China, until we saw an actual New Balance store. For added hilarity, check out the man displaying his goods in front.
Catchy motto!  The pasta looked good.
Confusing translations aren’t limited to local mom’n’pop stores.  This one is in a McDonald’s McCafe.

We went into a department/grocery store in Kangding, and it had amazingly bizarre signage for the various departments.


The Chinese Home Textile Association obviously has an agenda here.


Is that really what baking is?

So there you have it, some of our experiences with interesting English translations. It’s definitely an added hilarity and confusing thing in East Asia.

  • Emily and Doug / July 17, 2017 @ 10:02 / Zhudong, Taiwan @ Dan’s House

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