Sunday, November 11, 2007

Tissue poetry.

This is nice. The tissue actually features two lines from a well-known poem called "Bringing in the Wine 将进酒" by famous Tang dynasty poet Li Bai/Li Bo 李白 (701-762).

Oh, let a man of spirit venture where he pleases
And never tip his golden cup empty towards the moon!

(translation taken from 《唐诗三百首》中英文双语对照完整版 300 Tang Poems with translation, hosted by the University of Virginia's Chinese Text Inititative)

But that, of course, still doesn't explain why they had to use beer jugs for the birthplace of wineculture ...

(The simplest explanation is that the rather unspecific jiu 酒 - which can be used to describe all sorts of alcohol creations, ranging from beer (pijiu 啤酒) to schnapps (baijiu 白酒) - is translated as "wine" in this particular poem, so our tissue producers went with that particular translation, no matter what graphics they used :). )

Taken in Qingdao. Thanks, Wieland!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Book Review #02 (in German)

I'm happy to quote from the second book review of "Chinglish - Found in Translation".

Thanks, Cora!

"Fixed expectations district" ist nur eines der vielen Beispiele, die sich dem Leser in Form von 98 Hochglanzbildern in "Chinglish – Found in Translation" anschaulich präsentieren. [...]
Auf den folgenden Seiten erläutert der Autor darüber hinaus historische Hintergründe zur Entwicklung der englischen Sprache in China und eventuelle Verbindungen zu Chinglish, glücklicherweise ohne dabei zu sehr dem Detail zum Opfer zu fallen, was an dieser Stelle auch nicht angebracht wäre. Sehr aufschlussreich sind dagegen die Erklärungen zum Einfluss des kulturellen Hintergrunds auf Übersetzungen, insbesondere bei Kulturen, die so stark divergieren wie die – vereinfacht gesagt – „des“ Ostens und „des“ Westens.
Eine eindeutige, allgemein gültige Erklärung für das Phänomen Chinglish lässt sich wohl nicht finden. Aber wozu auch? Viel schöner ist es doch in die auf den folgenden Seiten präsentierten sprachlichen und kulturellen Unterschiede einzutauchen und einfach deren Bizarrheit und Charme auf sich wirken zu lassen… man wird es sicher nicht bereuen.
source: Cora Jungbluth, SHAN e.V. newsletter Nov 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pondering the online translation theory - part 2

Based upon my previous post on the might and magic of online translation tools, I’d like to elaborate further on the topic of why so many Chinese-English translations go wrong and how much online translation software is contributing to all this.

The battle plan for a rather thorough investigation (and maybe partial solution) of this huge mix-up of languages and meanings is as follows:

1. Defining a list of the most used English-Chinese dictionaries online.
2. Running a thorough test on all dictionaries using phrases that I’ve found on Chinglish signs.
3. Looking for similarities with the actual Chinglish signs.
4. Contacting the dictionary website and its webmaster directly, addressing the problem.

For doing so, I am seeking my readers’ help first.

Below, I have listed what I think are the most used English-Chinese dictionaries online. The method is disputable, but quick: I used today's top search results for the term "英汉在线词典" both on and
What are your suggestions? Did I miss one?

Top 10 English-Chinese online dictionaries
(developed by Chinese exchange students at the University of Indiana)
(run by popular dictionary company Kingsoft)
(run by China's search engine no. 1
(developed by Beijing-based Jin Hongen software company, the self-acclaimed no. 1 edu-website in China)
(same as Altavista's Babelfish?)
(run by, logo is hilarious)
(private project by H. Xin)
(run by Beijing-based software firm Unics Technology)
(run by Shanghai-based PC manufacturer Inventec)

Although Google's own translation service doesn't show up in the top results, I will include it anyway because of the search engine's ubiquity on the net:
(Google's translation service)

(Although there seems to exist a vast amount of dictionary websites, most of them actually make use of the above mentioned translation engines, mostly, or The ones above all use genuine databases. Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

Thanks for the notebook, Dan!