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Map Shows Chinese Translation of European Place Names

Start your weekend off with something awesome: this map of Europe showing the literal Chinese translations of European country names.

Here are some of the more amusing, if bizarre,  translations:

  • Norway: Move Prestige
  • Sweden: Very Lucky Soldiers
  • Finland: Orchid Fragrance
  • Portugal: Grapetooth
  • Italy: Meaning Big Profit
  • Latvia: Pull-off Via
  • Belgium: Billy Time
  • Ireland: Love Your Orchid
  • Hungary: Hun’s Tooth Profit

 Wow. The map was made by Haonowshaokao, who is learning Chinese, and his Chinese wife. He explained why they decided to make the map to Buzzfeed News:

“This is not a serious translation by any means – I’ve translated the names in a pedantic, literal way, character-by-character, which wouldn’t make sense to most Chinese people.

I don’t want to make fun of Chinese people or the Chinese language, it’s just a funny way for me to remember the names of countries as I learn the language. Chinese people don’t really think of America as Beautiful Country or the UK as Brave Country any more than we think of Turkey as a bird. Any language unlike your own looks strange from the outside, but I hope people can use this as a stepping stone to learning Chinese rather than laughing at it.”

Also, as Buzzfeed notes but I’d like to second, go read the comments on the original map! There are several interesting, in-depth and very-much-worth-reading discussions of Chinese history and how the various countries got their names.

This map is a lot of fun, but it also demonstrates why translation is such a difficult art. Literal, word-to-word translations of text often come out awkward at best and meaningless at worst.  If the material you are translating matters at all – to your business or to your customers – you need to hire a reputable, professional translation service.