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Korean Food, Lost in Translation

Awkward English translations are exceedingly common in Korea.  So common, in fact, that there is even a word to describe them: Konglish. “Konglish” translations of Korean restaurant menus are often especially heinous.
Kim Seong-kon, a professor of English at Seoul National University, has collected a list of them for the Korea Herald:

Preposterous English food translations include “lacquer poison chicken broth with ginseng (hanbang samgye tang).” Customers will surely be intimidated by this poisoned chicken dish that may threaten their lives. In fact, this dish, which should be translated to “boiled chicken with ginseng” or “chicken stew with ginseng,” is not dangerous at all, but very good for your stamina… Examples of embarrassing translations could seemingly go on forever.

Other highlights:

  • mountain not yet the pebble pot boiled rice with assorted mixtures (sanchae dolsot bibimbab, a vegetable hot pot)
  • mother hand tasty director of a bureau (omma son mat cheong guk jang, a soybean stew)
  • green pea jelly vegetable nothing needle (cheongpo mook yachae moochim, a green pea jelly salad)

Most of these botched translations are the result of attempting to translate word to word from Korean to English. As you can see from the results, it’s not always that simple and for accuracy’s sake it’s important to have someone with a working knowledge of both languages.

In an attempt to make Korean food sound more palatable, South Korea’s national language institute just released its first batch of official translations for restaurants. With verified English translations for 200 common South Korean dishes, officials hope this will make eating out in Korea easier for tourists.

According to the Wall Street Journal, however, the new translations come with problems of their own:

Many of the descriptions appear too brief. Take kal-guksu, a popular wheat-flour pasta soup with fish stock base. The new list calls it noodle soup, but that doesn’t reveal the type of noodle used in the dish. In Korean cuisine, there are many types of noodle dishes, in variable thickness, served chilled or in hot soup with different condiments and spices.

Meat dishes could also use some embellishment beyond listed definitions such as short rib soup, pork backbone stew, beef bone soup, ox bone soup and ox knee soup.

Still, that’s better than leaving tourists wondering if they’re being poisoned, or whether or not government officials taste like chicken!

What’s oddest menu translation you’ve ever seen? Share it in the comments!

Additional

I really don’t know what this video is, it has nothing to do with translation but I found it when I was researching this post. This guy’s laugh is hilarious.

Translation Gone Wrong: 7 Big Translation Fails from 2016 

2016 is over halfway gone. Let’s look back at some of this year’s best examples of translation gone wrong  (so far).  This year, we have a little bit of everything, from menu translations that will kill your appetite to translation gaffes from major political candidates. Here are the biggest and funniest translation fails of 2016!

Translation Gone Wrong: In the Darkest Depths of Mordor Russia…

mordor

Who knew Led Zeppelin’s 1969 hit Ramble On was actually an ode to Russian girls? Well, you might have thought so, anyway, if you’d been using Google Translate to translate from Ukrainian into Russian in January 2016.  A glitch caused the service to translate “Russia” into “Mordor,” the fictional home of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings.

According to the BBC, the error came about due to a flurry of internet chatter following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Online commentators in the Ukraine began referring to Russia as “Mordor,” and  Google Translate picked up on it.

Translation Gone Wrong:  Fashion Brands Monkey Around in China


2016 was the Year of the Monkey, and Western fashion brands tried hard to cash in with special monkey-related merchandise. Unfortunately, some of their efforts got lost in translation. Consider, as seen in Business Insider, the “creepy” gold-finished and rhinestone-studded monkey necklace offered by Louis Vuitton, or the cartoonish red-and-gold monkey keychain offered by Dior. Both were trashed on Chinese fashion blogs. So was a Givenchy “Year of the Monkey” T-shirt which featured what Chinese fashion blogger Gogoboi called “orangutans” in eyeshadow. (I think it’s actually a pair of baboons, but his point still stands. Traditional Chinese monkeys are usually macaques or gibbons. Baboons live in Africa.)

The moral of this story? Don’t think that designing to make a cultural reference will generate enough goodwill amongst consumers that they won’t care how ugly your merchandise is! Read more

6 Ridiculously Bad Translations from Amazon Prime Day

If you’re an Amazon Prime junkie, I don’t need to tell you that Tuesday was Prime Day. Your bank balance is probably enough of a reminder. For everyone else, Prime Day is Amazon’s self-created sales holiday, with deals on just about everything.

Amazon itself excels at localization. And we’ve held them up as an example of a company that gets it right.

But that’s not always true of the third-party sellers that offer their products in the Amazon marketplace. Product descriptions are provided by the sellers, not by Amazon. All too often, the sellers lack either the will or the resources to make quality translations a priority.

And the results can be hilarious, as these 6 examples of bad Prime Day translations prove. Here are a few of our favorites:

That Amorous Feeling

I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to adorn their house with a “decorative fish net of strong Mediterranean Sea amorous feelings?” Read more

Translation Value

Translation: Price is what you pay, Value is what you get

Picture the scene, it’s the weekend, the sun is shining, not a cloud in the sky, a perfect day for a leisurely drive. About an hour into your jaunt around the local country roads, you notice a strange clunking sound coming from under the bonnet. It looks like a trip to the garage is in order. Once you get home you call the guy (or girl) you always call when your car needs attention. You drop it off at the garage and wait for the workshop to call, what are the first three things you want to learn from that call?… Most people would likely answer along the lines of “can they fix it, what is it going to cost and how long is it going to take”, probably in that order.

Now you are probably wondering what going for a drive and suffering an impending breakdown has to do with anything, well I’ll get to that. About a year ago I was talking to a chap in a pub, the best stories always start with that line right? His name is Dave, you wouldn’t say he was anything out of the ordinary, casually dressed, glasses, drives a van, all very run of the mill, he wouldn’t mind me saying that he’d probably agree. Anyway, I sat at the bar waiting for my friends to finally show up and just happened to strike up a conversation with him. He told me about how he works in a garage and has done probably longer than I’ve been alive, another classic line from the book of pub stories huh. Dave’s customers go through exactly the same ritual as I had you imagine at the beginning, but when it comes to that phone call, his customers have slightly different expectations. Read more

Funny Sign Translations: 30 More Signs We Didn’t Translate

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs . . . but sometimes they get lost in translation! We’ve scoured the Internet for funny sign translations, and this is what we found. We certainly didn’t translate any of these, but we hope they give you a laugh:

Well, that’s not helpful

Lost in translation

If this place catches fire, we’re in trouble…

What AM I supposed to do then?

tsinc2x

Imgur/ JaromirAzarov

I’ll just stand here looking bored, I suppose . . .

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

datnbyh

As if pressing the big red button wasn’t tempting enough, pressing this particular big red button appears to bring on the apocalypse. You know you want to push it, just to see what happens. Don’t you?

Bad trip, man, bad trip!

kywqwrh

Sounds like someone should have passed on the brown acid…

I think I’ve lost my appetite. . .

wyciqf2-1

Imgur/JaromirAzarov

I’m not sure what they serve here, but I don’t think I want it for breakfast.

Brilliant idea

 6rw1gul

Just what everyone needs after a night out of Indian food! Someone is going to make a fortune off this. Read more

Bad Translations From the Food Industry: 7 Sickening Translation Fails

Bad translations are bad business.  You might think it doesn’t matter that much if a translation is perfect. Google Translate is good enough. Hey, it’s free! They’ll get the idea, right? Wrong. Bad translations not only make your company look stupid, they can also insult, offend or even disgust your potential customers. To prove it, here are 7 food industry translation fails guaranteed to make you sick to your stomach.

*Disclaimer: K International obviously had nothing to do with any of these translations.**

Hope you weren’t eating…

Bad Translations From the Food Industry: Smell of What?!?

smell-of-urine-yellow-croaker

Why would anyone want to order fish that smells like pee? As it turns out, “Quishan smell of urine yellow croaker” is a common but unfortunate translation for “Qíshān sàozi huángyú 岐山臊子黄鱼,” a popular Chinese seafood dish. The picture above is one of several different photos circulating online with the same translation.

There’s got to be an explanation for this, right?

Yes! According to Language Log, the Chinese word “sàozi” can have several different meanings depending on tone. One of those meanings is, in fact, “smell of urine.”

But that’s not the correct meaning in this context, of course. Here’s a better translation, again courtesy of Language Log:

“It turns out that sàozi 臊子 is a type of sauce made from minced pork cooked with vinegar, red pepper, and many other seasonings. So a better translation would be “yellow croaker with minced pork sauce à la Qishan”.

That sounds much more appealing!

Photo: Engrish.com Read more

bad video game translations

8 Hilariously Bad Video Game Translations

Those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s remember when video games were the new hotness. Everyone wanted an NES or a Sega Genesis, and we were all so enthralled with the magic of pressing buttons that nobody even cared how bad the dialogue was.

And often, it was bad. Many games were made in Japan first. Translation wasn’t always a top priority. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Early translations were sometimes “literally done by a “programmer with a phrase book.”  The end result? Some hilariously bad video game translations!

With that in mind, here’s a look back at 8 of the funniest crimes against translation from the video game industry:

Ikari Warriors: Take Good Rest


The end of Nintendo’s famously difficult game Ikari Warriors  had an unexpected reward for the lucky few who were dedicated and skilled enough t0 beat the game: an epic translation fail.

The closing message reads: “You have accomplished the mission.” (So far so good.)
“You are the very prevailer that protect right and justice.” (Thanks . . .  I think.)
I would express my sincere. Thanks to You. Take good rest! Read more