Category Archives: Translation

Japanese-English “Translation”

Those of you who know Japanese will understand why these errors occur.  Interference is encountered by children, adult bilinguals and multilinguals. It is not just limited to second-language learners (Matras, 2009). The examples in this post are attempts to make communicative use of elements from the repertoire of linguistic resources (however limited) available to the language user. However, interference results in a breakdown of communication—in this case, creating some jokes, and not “enabling” the user to create “bridges” among different subsets of linguistic resources within his/her repertoire.

  1. Flappy goods

  1. I have to praise you like I should.

  1. Benzodiazepizza






4. Alright, mate, remember to attach a reminder to your oven next time.

5. What thing? What thing?

  1. Where?

  1. Happy ninety-twoth birthday!

  1. Pure Shakespeare
  2. What did the eggs do?

Source of pictures and captions (except 4):

I have replaced Caption number 4. The verb “attach” has literally been translated from the Japanese verb.  I have also removed two examples of Chinese-English translations from the source because they are not examples of Japanese-English translation errors.



Translation Issues: Exhibition on the Bukit Brown Cemetery

I am going to broach mainly a few points on translation which have caught my attention at the exhibition of the Bukit Brown Cemetery (Singapore). One of the issues concerns the degree of impact and functional equivalence of the original communication in the receptor language.

On the English-language panel which explains the “exhumation process” of Chinese burial, one of the sentences reads:
“For private exhumations, the exhumation process usually takes place between nighfall and dawn, so that the remains of the deceased, of the Yin element, do not come accidentally come into contact with the sun, of the Yang element”. (See below).
shi3de bu2hui4 (Eng)

The translation in Chinese carries this structure: shi3de2…bu2hui4 (使得。。。不会) meaning “cause…not to”(see below).
shi3de2 bu2hui4
I wonder if this language transfer problem has been overlooked or is the translation acceptable in Singapore Chinese? In addition “yang elements” is used in the plural when the text only mentioned a “yang” element.

The other issue is the not-so-ideal lexical transportation of the expression, “found its way“, from the source language into the Chinese translation. The English panel on ceramic photographs reads:
“Ceramic photographs, originating in France in 1854 but popularized and perfected by the Italians, had found their way to the graves”. (See below).
Found their way
The Chinese translation means “finally spread” (最终流传到)(see below).
Liu chuan

There could be more issues, but having only browsed through the panels, these are the few that have caused me to pause and think for a while.
The picture below shows the statue of a Sikh guard, which stands beside the tomb of a prominent businessman of the early 20th-century Malaya, Ong Sam Leong, in the cemetery.
Indian guard The exhibition is held at the National Library of Singapore from July 19 to October 10, 2014. Background information on the cemetery can be found at: