Cheap fuel, expensive food

Beware of your belongings

The BBC reports (China dishes up menu translations) that the Beijing Tourism Bureau is trying to improve the English translations of restaurant menus in preparation for next year's Olympics.

Translations such as "virgin chicken" for a young chicken dish and "burnt lion's head" for pork meatballs are confusing for foreigners, it says.

[..] The names of many Chinese dishes have historical, cultural, regional and political connotations that would not necessarily be understood by foreigners, Xinhua reports.

Not just Chinese, of course.  What do foreigners make of menus with items such as Yorkshire Pudding, Hors d’œuvre (which I once saw translated as "mixed outworks"), Peach Melba, Hash Browns, Bombay Duck etc. 

But the poor English translations "either scare or embarrass foreign customers and may cause misunderstanding of China's diet habits".

The tourism bureau is seeking opinions on the translations of 2,753 dishes and drinks. The final, approved list of translated names will then be rolled out to restaurants across the country, Xinhua says.

One of the many problems with translations is that there are subtle differences in meaning in both English and Chinese.  For example, I recently saw a sign with a series of warnings in both Chinese and English.  One of them was 'Beware of your belongings', which might be apt if you have a Nokia phone with an exploding battery, but clearly it wasn't what they really meant.

The Chinese version started with a very familiar phrase - 小心 (siu sam in Yale romanization), which means "take care".  In some cases, "beware" is a good translation, such as "beware of the slippery floor", but here it isn't and the normal translation would be correct. 

Of course the meaning is clear enough, and frankly I don't need to be to be reminded to look after my belongings, but you have to wonder why someone didn't take the trouble to ask a native English speaker whether the translation was correct.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)