a translation lesson courtesy of IKEA Singapore

language is dynamic. so very often meaning and use could be localised. whether a translator is aware and appreciates this will show through when s/he is required to perform language translation. this advertisement by IKEA found in Lianhe Zaobao on 7th March 2014 is an excellent piece of teaching/learning resource for a translation lesson:

2014-03-07 19.58.40

from the 2 GLARING translation errors here, we can be almost 100% sure the advertisement originates from an English version. let’s look at them:

1. 春鸡

an apparent direct word-for-word translation from Spring Chicken. so the first question that comes to mind, “Does IKEA sell chickens from different seasons 夏鸡、秋鸡、冬鸡? Or IKEA only sells chicken born during spring season in today’s context?” Spring chicken as we know refers to young non-grown up chicken. the erroneous translation obviously lacks appreciation of this. in the local Singapore context, spring chicken is called 童子鸡, which will cause no one to mistake it from a fully grown-up adult chicken. on to a deeper meaning of the words 春 and 鸡 that’s used here. 鸡 is often used in casual context to refer to 妓 (prostitute) due to the nearness in pronunciation. when 春 is seen with 鸡, mental association of 春 with 叫春 occurs. 叫春 refers to animals emitting sounds when they are looking for mates. so it begs the question “what is IKEA selling again!?!” “Adults and children should avoid such a place at all cost, for obvious reasons.” this is definitely a direct opposition to the original intention of an advertisement, not to mention the harm it’s doing to the advertiser’s image :O

2. 双方宜家餐厅 (双方 IKEA restaurant)
it’s been quite a while since we went to IKEA, a year at least? and we din know that IKEA has named its restaurant 双方,meaning ‘Both Side’. “huh!?! what sides? which sides? who and who’s involved?” one will immediately ask when seeing this. without seeing the original English version, the best guess here is 双方 refers to BOTH (cos IKEA has 2 outlets here). this translation once again demonstrates ZERO appreciation of the meanings of the original text. a translation that demonstrates appreciation for meaning, and language use would be 任何一家。 the whole sentence will read 可在任何一家宜家餐厅购买,售完为止。 a side point, the original translation 卖完 is so CRUDE;即止 or 为止 there’s no right or wrong here, but more Singaporeans (from the local 3.31 million population) use the latter more often.

(acknowledgement: Lianhe Zaobao for the print; IKEA for funding the advertisement for educational purposes)

updated 22:34hr

it’s interesting to note that mainland Chinese’s day-to-day term is also 童子鸡。 in this report, the expert is trying to explain to the Chinese why the English term is ‘spring chicken’, and the literal translation is 春+鸡。however, it’s easy for one to be lost in this explanation and mistook the Chinese expert to mean spring chicken = 春鸡, when it is not!!! Google Translate for one is mistaken, and propagating such a mistake :O

URL: 北京推出中国菜官方英译名 童子鸡译为’春鸡’

Google Translate screen capture:
140308-google translate spring chicken

it is good for one to note that Google’s business is NOT in mainland China as of now. maybe that’s part of the reasons for such problems? (:

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