Monday 26 January 2015

When bad translation isn't just Chinglish.

While everyone loves great Chinglish, the latest update to Google Translate allowing immediate translation of speech and text (though not in Chinese), may give the impression that the days of great Chinglish might be over.  Chinglish aside, it may give the idea that translation is easier than it actually is. 

But even a reasonable fluency in both the source language and the target language, is no guarantee of a good translation. Subject matter knowledge is still critical producing a correct translation.

This translation at the Zhenhai Tower at the Guangzhou Museum is a good example of when just knowing both languages isn't enough. What are "popping cannons" and what is the "Germany kelubo weapon factory"?    The "popping cannons" are apparently "breech loading rifled 'shrapnel' guns" and the "kelubo" is the famous Krupp Company of Essen, Germany.

In a case like this, unlike the usual amusing Chinglish street sign, this translation in what is otherwise functional basic English, is practically pointless without a correct translation of the important points of interest.