Posts Tagged ‘english’

Sharn Hi Juan Ing Knee: language training for World Expo

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Ain’t it exciting? The World Expo is finally here. You bet China, especially Shanghai, has been spending huge money and human or non-human resource preparing for this. For those who had been to the Beijing Olympics back in 08, maybe you still remember the warm feeling of being cared about by countless volunteers. Apparently Shanghai is planning to tune that up a notch by enabling *everybody* in the public service sector to court foreign tourists. The proof of this assumption is a picture passed along by a classmate of my cousin:

Shanghai World Expo English lesson poster

Shanghai World Expo English lesson poster

No, this isn’t urban legend. I know the “classmate of cousin” part sounds like it, but I really doubt if anyone could hammer such a picture out of Photoshop. The banner was apparently designed/distributed by “Command center for public services and commerce development, Luwan District”. Thus I assume that the intended audience of this banner is Shanghainese working in banks, transport hubs, shopping malls, newspaper stands, etc. The purpose seems to be teaching general Shanghainese in the service sector the most English in the shortest time possible. As a matter of fact English letters are beyond a lot of Chinese, not to mention those quirky phonetic symbols. But to prepare the whole city for World Expo, that isn’t a problem. They used Chinese characters to mark pronunciation. Some examples on the banner are:

English: Welcome to our store!
Pronunciation: 维尔抗姆突奥窝思道
Pinyin: Wei2 Er3 Kang4 Mu3 Tu1 Ao4 Wo1 Si1 Dao4
Comment: Totally gibberish in Chinese. And in my case it takes me 30 seconds to pull off the tongue twister.

English: I’m sorry, I can only speak a little English.
Pronunciation: 俺么骚瑞,俺坎翁累丝鼻科额累偷英格历史
Pinyin: An3 Me0 Sao1 Rui4, An3 Kan3 Weng1 Lei4 Si1 Bi2 Ke1 E2 Lei4 Tou1 Ying1 Ge2 Li4 Shi3
Comment: Oh man, you can only speak a little English, but I see you fire a hell of great Chinese tongue twister. My eyes and mind get mingled merely looking at that line!

English: Just a moment, please.
Pronunciation: 杰丝特哞闷特,普立斯
Pinyin: Jie2 Si1 Te4 Mou1 Men1 Te4, Pu3 Li4 Si1
Comment: This… should… work…? It’s just that I’m not sure if that rarely used 哞 could be picked up by the majority of people…?

In general I think this is a failure. High school students tend to use this trick for their English lessons, and that’s OK, since they are only marking single words. But forging such long lines of gibberish, I’m not sure which is easier, start from the rightful phonetic symbols, or try to master this twisted gibberish? In my case, with the same time and effort to burn that “Wei2 Er3 Kang4 Mu3 Tu1 Ao4 Wo1 Si1 Dao4” into my mind, I can pretty much master how to deliver “welcome to our store” in 5 different languages…

Another reason why this is a failure is that the tutorial given here is far from enough. Based on this English-in-(supposedly)-30-seconds tutorial, let’s imagine the following scenario:

Mr. Wang (let’s say, 50 years old), who runs a small newspaper stand by a main street, saw a bewildered foreign tourist standing nearby. In good faith, helpful mind, and augmented by the quick English lesson he just picked up not long ago, he approached the foreigner and initiated a conversation:

Wang: Kan3 Ai2 Hai3 Er3 Pu1 You2? (Can I help you?)
Foreigner: Sure, thanks so much, gentleman! I’m trying to figure out how to get to [fill in a preferred place name] from here. All my gratitude if you could show me the route!
Wang: …
Foreigner: ???
Wang: …
Foreigner: … ???
Wang: An3 Me0 Sao1 Rui4, An3 Kan3 Weng1 Lei4 Si1 Bi2 Ke1 E2 Lei4 Tou1 Ying1 Ge2 Li4 Shi3! Bai2 Bai2! (I’m sorry, I can only speak a little English! Bye bye!) [Retreats into his booth]
Foreigner: [High on triple dose of bewilderment]

Doesn’t make much sense, right? And I’m in serious doubt if any Mr. Wang could really get around the “I’m sorry blah blah blah” line. So come on, Shanghai, cancel the joke, do it properly, hire some professionals, or recruit college volunteers. You saw those volunteer booths in Beijing a couple of years ago, and they worked like a charm.

Or if this is how things go in reality, and you happen to be in Shanghai, and you are really confused by your Mr. Wang, here is a little Chinese-in-30-seconds, delivered in similar fashion, for your reference. Oh you’re welcome, don’t have to thank me. We share the planet, we help each other out.

Chinese: 这个多少钱?
Meaning: How much is this?
Pronunciation: Drill Girl Dough Shall Chant?
Notes: As a matter of course it’s not perfect match, but repeat it a handful of times and keep pointing to the item you want to buy, they will get it eventually.

Chinese: 请问几点啦?
Meaning: Excuse me, what’s the time please?
Pronunciation: Cheering When Gee Diane La
Notes: You’re asking about *time*, and there is a “when” in this line. Perfect logic. See? You’ve already remembered 1/5 of the whole sentence in a blink of eyes. It’s so much more efficient than Luwan District English.

Chinese: 可以借用一下卫生间吗?
Meaning: May I use the bathroom?
Pronunciation: Cur Ill Jay Young Ill Share Weight Shown Jan Ma?
Notes: Not an easy one, but now you should get the idea what your general Chinese may feel when he/she stumbles upon the Luwan banner.

Chinese: 太贵了,我不买
Meaning: That’s too expensive. I won’t buy it.
Pronunciation: Thai Gale Le. Wow Bull My.

Chinese: 你好
Meaning: Hello / Good morning / Good afternoon / Good evening
Pronunciation: Knee Hall.

Chinese: 对不起
Meaning: Sorry / Excuse me
Pronunciation: Dale Bull Cheese.
Note: All nouns, short, easy to remember.

Chinese: 谢谢
Meaning: Thanks.
Pronunciation: Shy Shy
Note: Not the ideal pronunciation match. Can’t do better, Dale Bull Cheese. Remember to keep a big, bright grin on your face to enhance the scene. Don’t literally go shy.

Chinese: 没关系
Meaning: No worries / It doesn’t matter / You’re welcome / So be it
Pronunciation: May Gum She

Chinese: 再见
Meaning: Bye bye.
Pronunciation: Zap Jan

Sincerely wish you enjoy your stay in Shanghai during the World Expo. Please find our wishes and greetings as:

上              海            欢              迎             你!
Shang4    Hai3      Huan1     Ying2     Ni3!
Sharn       Hi           Juan         Ing          Knee!

Article by Kane Gao, Illuminant’s Head of Research

Illuminant’s approach to Chinese-English translation (我们如何在朔光进行翻译工作)

Sunday, September 6th, 2009
Translation Center of Toways

Translation can be a tricky business in China

As we all know, language is, in most cases, far more than just a number of symbols and expressions. Instead, language is a reflection of a nation’s civilization, its unique thinking and behavior patterns and its geographic location as well.


As a result, translators must do more than merely translating from one language to the other. Translators are also playing the roles of editors and copywriters, as they need to polish their translated work and make it sound as natural and elegant as possible in the target language. Here arises an inevitable dilemma for translators, as they are expected to be faithful to the original language and are usually not encouraged to change the content and sentence orders in the original language and are thus influenced by the original language. That’s why many knowledgeable Chinese call translators “dancers with shackles”. Most of the time, translated texts are slightly, if not too much, different from those directly written by a native copywriter due to different ways of thinking and structure development. At Illuminant, to maintain the high quality of our translation work, our language team always tries its best to offset the abovementioned influences by polishing the text afterwards and by always having a designated internal third party to contribute as a polisher to proofread our finished translation work in an objective manner.

因此,译员要做的不仅仅是将一种语言翻译到另一种语言。他们同时还发挥着编辑和撰稿人的作用,因为他们需要润色自己的翻译成果,从而尽可能地使翻译的目标语言变得自然而优雅。而译员在这里就难免陷入一种困境,因为他们仍然需要忠实于原文,不轻易变更原文的内容或是语句的排列顺序,所以他们将或多或少受到原始语言的影响。这就是为什么人们将译员称为 “带着枷锁的舞者” 。在大多数情况下,翻译出来的文本与直接撰写的文案,二者有一定的区别,这是因为不同的语言总是有不同的思维方式和文章构架。为了尽量减少上述影响,在朔光,我们翻译团队总是尽力保证在翻译完成之后对译文进行润色与审译,并在交稿之前让其他同事以客观的角度再次审查译文,从而保持翻译工作的质量。

So our translation procedure is usually consisted of three parts: translatio; internal proofreading and polishing; external polishing, before we hand our work over to our clients, and from time to time, post-translation communication with clients is carried out to best understand and satisfy our clients’ specific needs and requirements.


Also, the Illuminant language team takes pride in a number of house glossaries we have compiled for each of our major clients based on their specific fields, such as architecture, mining, high-tech, tourism, and other sectors which our agency is expert in. Glossaries are very important for all of our language-related work at Iluminant, because most of our clients are long-term retainer-based and thus keeping our copywriting and choice of words professional, accurate and consistent is a key priority for our language work. That’s when our glossaries come into play: ensuring accuracy and consistency.


Graceful language and elegant wording is always appreciated and enjoyed like a refined art. But there are occasional cases where clients don’t want their copywriting – words that powerfully represent themselves and their products – to be “high-brow”. In other words, they want “plain” language to represent them (in the Western sense, this might be thought of as “tabloid” language). When this happens, we will actively communicate with them to know about their specific needs and “play down” our choice of words accordingly, in order to cater to their special requirements. After all, clients’ needs and satisfaction form the priority. But the good news is: most clients LOVE beautiful language the way they appreciate refined arts.

优美的语言、典雅的措辞,如同精致的艺术一般,是一种愉悦的欣赏与享受。但是,有时有些客户却不希望我们为他们撰写的文案太过“风雅” 。换句话说,他们希望用“平实”的语言来表达自己。在这种情况下,我们将积极地与他们展开沟通,从而了解他们的具体需求,并在措辞方面为他们量体裁衣,以满足他们的特殊要求。毕竟,客户的需求与满意是市场经济的重点所在。而好消息就是:我们的大多数客户,正如喜爱精致的艺术一般,也喜爱美丽的言辞。

Article by Illuminant’s Head of Language Services, Monica Lin (林敏)


Illuminant's five thingsRefreshing your website presents great opportunities and hazards. Learn the top 5 lessons to succeed, and to stay within budget and deadline.

The Year of the Dragon is here now

Everything you need to know about the new Lunar New Year of the Dragon, and how it will influence Chinese business in 2012. Click here.

Search Illuminant