Top 10 Asian English Translation Failures

Accurately translating text from Japanese or Chinese to English (or vice versa) can be a difficult task. The languages are just so different, both grammatically and phonetically. Meanwhile, small Asian businesses often don’t have the resources to get a proper translator and rely on machine translation instead. The resulting translations are sometimes odd and nonsensical, and often hilarious. If you need a laugh, has a constantly growing collection of these mistranslations and malapropisms. Here are 10 of my personal favorites:

  1. Hand grenade:” Found over a fire extinguisher in China.
  2. “The grass is smiling at you. Please detour.” Found on a “Keep off the grass” sign from China. Why yes, don’t mind if I do…
  3. “Nokia – Connocting poopie.” Found over a cell phone shop in Manzhouli, China. Obviously, this should say “Nokia – Connecting people.” But it doesn’t.
  4. These children’s play area rules from a shopping center in Malaysia repeatedly refer to the play area as “the naughty palace.” Could be me, but that doesn’t sound like an appropriate place for a child!
  5. “Feman:” Found on a women’s bathroom sign in China.
  6. “Fried horse crap with lime.” Found on a menu in Thailand. Judging by the accompanying picture, it’s actually a crab dish. Thank heavens!
  7. Chinese Semen Cannabis Drink: Found on a menu in Hong Kong. They meant “hemp seed.”
  8. “Drop off your laundry and get it on.” Found over a laundromat in Saipan.
  9. “ZeroCare:” The name of a home health care service. Nurse Ratched, is that you?
  10. “Creep Shop:” The name of a crepe shop in Japan.

It should be noted that English speakers have their own translation issues with Japanese and Chinese, especially when it comes to body art. See That Chinese Tattoo: I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means for some examples.  At least signs and menus can be reprinted!

2 replies
  1. Hugh
    Hugh says:

    Some of these translation errors are so funny that it almost makes you forget about the serious effects they can impose on people. For example, calling a fire extinguisher a hand grenade may have been quite frightening for people after the terror attacks that had occurred in recent years in various locations around the world. Personally I would say that you almost can’t go wrong by using translation companies to make sure your text doesn’t ever consist of these kinds of mistakes.


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  1. […] These malapropisms are a prime source of amusement for tourists abroad in Asian countries (see The Top 10 Asian English Translation Failures for examples), but locals are generally somewhat embarrassed by their existence. Plus, when […]

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