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Music – “Dancing Rhythm” from Chinese Traditional Music by Yan Ani. Released: 2011
One of the most delightful pastimes is trying to fathom translations from “foreign” restaurant menus, into English. (see my related post of February 24th, 2015 “Bear Foot Bean Curd and Open Mouth Laughs: The Delightful names of Chinese Dishes)
According to one study I located from Stanford University (cs229.stanford.edu/proj2008/TingLiao-TranslatingChineseMenu.pdf),
“The main reason (for strange translations) is that a normal translator cannot generally handle the name of a dish due to the lack of sentence structure. When you simply group a set of nouns together, as in most of the cases in names of Chinese dishes, it would be hard for the translator to decide what to do when the words have multiple meanings”.
Using some of my Chinese cookbooks, which have recipes in both English and Chinese, I plugged in some terms and directions into an online translator, http://www.freetranslation.com/en/translate-english-chinese. After typing in the English phrase and translating it into “Chinese, simplified”, I then copied the Chinese characters and tried to translate the Chinese characters back into English, which produced some bizarre results!
Thus, we see 菠萝咕咾肉, “Sweet and Sour Pork with Pineapple”, appearing as “Pineapple windbreaks meat”.
Or, 过桥米线, which is “Crosses the Bridge Rice-Flour Noodle” on some translators, manages to read as “Feeder House m Cable”!
酒酿圆子 is “Glutinous Rice Dumpling in Fermented Glutinous Wine”, but when re-translated from the Chinese actually reads “Wine brewing round sub”.
宫保虾球, “Shrimp Balls with Chili and Peanuts” was translated as “According to the shrimp ball”.
Now I know what the expression “It got lost in the translation” really means! Picture 冰糖肘子 “Swallow Nests with Rock Sugar Elbows”, if you can. The dish is actually named “Pork Leg Stewed with Crystal Sugar”
Directions are even more amusing: 使酱汁根据方向和泼上鸡, taken from one of my bilingual Chinese cookbooks means “…make sauce according to directions and pour over chicken”. The reverse translation reads “…the sauce based on direction and splashed with chicken”. Are your chickens too loose and too fast? (如果在任何时间的鸡太棕色太快、松散奠定shieet的箔片的顶部) If so, “…brown shieet lay the top piece of foil”.
Whatever you do, don’t exhaust your chicken (every good cook knows that!) “The legs exhaust if hip joints are easily loose, chicken, is doing” (doing what, I’m not sure), but essentially, “jiggle the leg and if the hip joint loosens easily, the chicken is done. (气的腿如果髋关节很容易松动,鸡是这样做的
Of course, serving is also critical in Chinese service: “Serve while very hot and crisp either serve whole, or cut it up before serving”, or, if this makes more sense to you: “Although the service and clarity of very hot or for the whole or to the first” (服务虽然很热和清晰的或者为整个或切了先为).
Serving up a dish with fried vermicelli and pigeon? Here’s some advice: “Breaking of fried of fan finger in a dish down with a mixture of pigeons, through its service” (打破了油炸粉丝的手指放在一盘菜倒了白鸽的混合物通过它的服务) Alternately, you can “…break up the fired vermicelli with the fingers and place on a dish and pour the pigeon mixture over it for serving” Take your pick!
卷轴纵向和密封件的端头与冷水 When making any kind of wonton or spring roll, be sure to “Roll the longitudinal and seal the end of the Cold”. (You can figure that one out!)
Etiquette at the Chinese dinner table is essential and many a tourist has exemplified “The Ugly American” by failing to familiarize oneself with the proper table manners, when dining in China. “It is said that as long as the alcohol is in this restraint is an excellent wine list has begun its natural is expected to have a certain amount of fun and joy in the rest of the night’s proceedings”.
In other words, “…it is said that as soon as the wine is in the restraint is out, so once the flow of wine has been thus started it is naturally to be expected to lead to a certain amount of conviviality and hilarity during the rest of the evening’s proceedings”. 是说,只要该酒是在克制是这样一流的葡萄酒已开始它的自然是预计将导致一定的欢乐和欢乐在其余的夜晚的诉讼程序
There are also “dos” and “do nots”, when it comes to eating with chopsticks: 肘部应保持尽量靠近身体,不应向外指出他们很可能会烦扰你的邻居. “Elbow is as close as possible to the body and not be outward pointed out that they are likely to be annoyance to Your Neighbors”.
Some other gems of translation:
清除鸭汤 Clear duck soup
“Clear the ducks soup”
不要在享用中式晚餐表 Don’ts at a Chinese dinner table
“Do not use in a Chinese dinner table”
切碎的鸡大大小的数据块 Chop the chicken into large sized pieces
“Chopped chicken maximum size of the data block” (a “data block” is the smallest unit of storage in an Oracle database, but how many Chinese cooks would know that!)
不要吃的响声 Do not eat audibly
“Do not eat the sound”
切勿扔骨头的狗 Do not throw bones to dogs
“Do not throw the dog bones” (throw pork bones instead?)
Anyway you look at it, menu translations are just downright amusing, no matter where you are!