A Bounty on Engrish

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Visitors to South Korea, take note. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) has set a bounty on the awkward, low-quality translations known as “Engrish.” 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 you’re a tourist trying to navigate a foreign country, mistranslations don’t help.

It’s understandable, then, that the KTO would make it a priority to improve the quality of translations available to tourists. What’s interesting is the way in which they are going about it. As CNNGo reports, from now until December 14th, you can go to the Visit Korea website and submit pictures of translation mistakes from any tourist site in South Korea. When you do, you’ll be entered to win the Korean equivalent of a $45 gift card, accepted anywhere credit cards are taken.

However, there is one important caveat: since the KTO doesn’t have any authority over roads or restaurants, they aren’t accepting pictures of poorly translated road signs or menus.  However, they will pay to fix signs at tourist spots that contestants highlight during the contest.

Also, while the contest is open to everyone, you’ll probably need at least a working knowledge of Korean to get through the application process. There is no English translation provided for the event home page or the entry form, and Google Translate seems to be unable to process it.

Even if you don’t plan to enter the contest, if you’re in Asia and you spot one of these humorous word salads, go ahead and snap a picture of it. The world is getting smaller every day. Sooner or later, “Engrish” will become increasingly rare as people are able to access better translations – and that will be a mixed blessing, indeed!