Posts Tagged ‘china’

I’ve always wanted to speak other languages.

At the end of primary school, when each member of my class got to pick a book as a reward for making it through the last seven years, I scouted the position of the French-English dictionary the day before we had to make our selection and headed straight for it as soon as our teacher said ‘go’.

Over the next four years I struggled admirably to convert a West of Scotland accent into a French one, until I was told if I wanted to study geography at higher level, I would have to drop French – one of the more ridiculous policies enforced by my school.

I kept up the French at night school for a while, then switched to Spanish as I considered it more compatible with the guttural sounds my voice naturally produced.

For the next seven years I worked my way through evening class after evening class, finally getting a university diploma and a degree of fluency that allowed me to discuss Basque politics and water shortages – if at a basic level and very, very slowly, in an accent more Greenock than Granada.

Husband and I talked of moving to Spain at some point in the future. The company he worked for had links to a government organisation in Seville, and each year one employee got the chance to move there for 12 months. But if my other half had been lucky enough to be selected, what would I have done for that year? Despite my ability to wax lyrical in Castillian about whether Gibraltar should be returned to the Spanish, I knew that as a professional writer my career options in Spain would be limited. I certainly couldn’t work as a journalist or PR person, writing in Spanish. I’d have to get a native speaker to check everything I’d written, wouldn’t I?

Well, I would. But anyone who has travelled knows that not everyone is so conscientious. I’ve seen examples of poor translation all around the world, and my recent trip to China was particularly outstanding in that respect. From the ‘No Striding’ sign on a railway platform to the ‘No Leaning’ one on a shopping mall bench, it wasn’t always entirely clear what the authorities were on about.

So I’d like to offer my services to overseas governments and industry. I will read the text you have had so carefully translated for your signs and pamphlets before you spend your hard-earned cash getting them produced.

I will tell you when the language is almost-there-but-not-quite-close-enough:

I will tell you when you’re ruining your chances of any native English speaker ever buying your clothing:


And I will tell you when I have no idea what you were trying to say:

Or maybe I won’t. Because much as I hate our beautiful language being abused, correcting these mistakes might just take away some of the fun of travel.

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Down under out east*

I’ve been a bit quiet on here lately so I thought I’d post an update so all my regular readers – hello mum and dad! – don’t get worried.

I’m actually in China at the moment, which is a fascinating and crazy place but one which has a bit of an issue with social media…so no Facebook or Twitter. WordPress, surprisingly, is permitted, but I am too busy to blog. When I get back, however, I’m going to take this site off topic for a few posts and share some of my experiences with you. But for fans of my regular rants about Perth, don’t fret – normal service will no doubt be resumed at some point!

* I am actually still in the same time zone as Perth so this heading isn’t terribly accurate but you know what I mean…

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