Language Matters January 2006: Funny Translation and Different Types of Chinese

Dear Language Friend,

Wishing you a fresh new start in 2006! Welcome to our January newsletter on the WHY, HOW, WHERE and WHEN of languages. I will explain WHY a funny translation may harm your business and HOW to distinguish between Mandarin & Cantonese and Traditional & Simplified Chinese. I will also give you the details of WHERE to learn Mandarin and WHEN to attend our free French lesson.

Thanks for reading,

Lenka de Graafova, Managing Director.

WHY Translation Matters

Whenever I travel to countries where English is not the main language I have a great time reading the menus, flyers and brochures. The translations for the tourists often leave me in stitches. During my recent trip to Argentina I collected a few such translations.

In a bathroom: The cleanliness of the toilet is made between everybody. Please contribute throwing things and papers to the garbage can.

On a menu in a very fancy restaurant: Crêpes stuffed with caramel crud. Smashed potatoes.

Still, at no time am I more aware of the need to translate than when I am on holiday. I had an eye-opening experience while dining in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. The restaurant in question was nothing short of glorious, offering up local delicacies perfectly paired with great wines. Everything was enchanting, except for their translations. The restaurant’s promotional materials and menu had been directly translated from Spanish, and were not consistent with their high standards.

And so, over another glass of fabulous Argentinean wine I edited the translated menu, much to the staff’s delight. Tourism is booming in the southernmost part of the world, but the quality of translation has not caught up to the industry’s developments. As a traveller, I consider bad translations to be a source of amusement. However, as a language professional, I find that bad translations demonstrate a lack of effort, professionalism, and even respect on the part of a business.

Here are some recommendations to help you avoid getting a laugh:

  • In-house translations and printed publications should be proofread by professionals to ensure the highest quality possible.
  • Make certain your translator is a native speaker of your target language.

Translation matters to your business.

It’s More Than Just Chinese

When clients ask for a Chinese translation what do they really want?

On average I receive 4 to 5 calls a week from clients wanting Chinese translations, which makes sense considering over 30% of Vancouver’s population is of Chinese descent.

Here is an example of a typical call:

– Client: Hello Lenka. I need a Chinese translation.
– Lenka: Not a problem. Do you need the text translated into traditional or simplified characters?
– Client: Traditional and simplified characters are both used in Vancouver, are they not?
– Lenka: That’s right. If it was Mainland China it would more than likely be Simplified Chinese characters.
– Client: And Hong Kong and Taiwan use Traditional Chinese characters, don’t they?
– Lenka: More often than not.
– Client: One more question. My client speaks Mandarin. How will this be reflected in the translation?
– Lenka: Remember that Mandarin, like Cantonese, is a dialect and is spoken only. It has no written form. Documents are translated into either traditional or simplified characters.
– Client: So if I need something translated into Chinese those are my two choices?
– Lenka: Bingo.
– Client: And if I’m talking Mandarin, Cantonese, Haka…
– Lenka: Then you are talking about needing an interpreter.

As you can see, Chinese is a grouping of dialects, Mandarin being the most widely spoken of these. However, despite their many differences, the dialects all share the same writing system based on Chinese characters.

At LingoStar, we handle them all.

WHERE to Learn Mandarin and French

Sign up for our Mandarin and French language courses.

We are offering French, Mandarin, Spanish, Polish, Czech & Business English courses. All levels are welcome. Classes of 3-7 students are taught by professional teachers. These 2-hour language sessions take place once or twice a week in Vancouver, Burnaby or, alternatively at your office. Other language courses can be arranged upon request.

    • Course fees (excluding GST):
    • French, Mandarin, Spanish, Polish & Czech: $ 395

Business English for Foreigners: $ 1,860


 Special Offer: Free French Lessons, Last Year…

January 26th, at 5:45 pm, 1260 Hornby Street

This was LingoStar’s Special Event !


LingoStar will be holding an introductory French lesson on Thursday, January 26th, at 5:45 pm, 1260 Hornby Street, Vancouver. Coffee and croissants provided.

It’s totally free! Meet your future French tutor and classmates! Please RSVP to reserve your spot.