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Odd translations found on English websites for tourists in Japan

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Cripes, we have been dealing with ENGRISH in our daily lives here in Japan since like forever! What is so surprising that now it's on websites?

14 ( +16 / -2 )

This still drives me nuts. Companies are willing to spend thousands, if not millions of yen on large signs and upgrading websites etc, . . . . but not willing to spend significantly less than than on a native language speaker to make some basic changes.

For the examples above you wouldn't even need a qualified translator, just a native speaker.

25 ( +28 / -3 )

suji is actually tendons, not muscle.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

All because the Japanese have never managed to learn the language properly....

0 ( +11 / -11 )

Japan Tourism Agency conducted a survey between February and March, looking through a total of 85 websites by train and bus operators as well as transportation signs in towns.

This is just tip of iceberg, Japan Tourism Agency only conduct for transportation related information during that survey. This weird translation can be found pretty easily in any website, document or sign that belong to any big Japanese corporation or Japanese government agency.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

..And it is not just peculiar words, but complete explanations that are incorrect. Things copied for one place that are not the same explanation in another place. — Needed to get some train tickets at JTB office, but there were no tickets at every office as the English explanation said. The correct JTB office was miles away and I was on foot.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

kurisupisu:

the Japanese have never managed to learn the language properly....

True. English is not really necessary in day to day lives for most people in Japan. It's as simple as that.

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Well, there is a positive side. Because of the Ministory (sic) of Education's total failure to teach Japanese children any English, we gaijins can make a good living here.

20 ( +20 / -0 )

Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese language signs are more important than English signs today. I do not see visitors from English speaking countries in many these days. I found Asian visitors do not understand English very much and they are not paying attentions to English signs.

-9 ( +7 / -16 )

All the bloopers make for great Facebook posts. If we in Japan can give our family and friends who are unable to experience it first-hand, a laugh, then we are increasing the total sum of positive energy in the world! One discovery at a time.

Post locally, laugh globally!

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I went into the JR travel center in Sendai station last month, and the staff there got me check and correct their english translations so that they made sense for foreigners to read. At least it is nice to see they are taking the time to care enough about the curious traveller.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I think part of the problem here, is that people depend too much on Google Translate. I would never depend on a translation device. They're not even very good at interpreting the instructions on a hotel air conditioner.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

They're obviously not having native speakers of English write these things, or check them.

Why not? Is it a case of "we Japanese" having too much pride to admit that they need help with such things?

11 ( +14 / -3 )

Some websites pay for people like me to do their translations, others go the cheap (or free) machine-translation route. The high-context nature of Japanese poses particular problems for machine translation, and using unchecked machine-translated output as-is is reckless at best.

17 ( +17 / -0 )

Machine translations might be useful for personal use only and should never be used on a business website.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

God knows how many times I've translated something properly for a client and they don't believe me, at first I would argue about it but nowadays I just say the customer is always right and take their money, I just make sure that their "suggestions" are documented so that if a native speaker complains and the come back to me I can clearly show them who's fault it is. It just doesn't make any sense to me, this country is all about giving the best customer service possible but the thinking goes out the window when foreign language is involved. With all of the Chinese support these days I wonder if those translations are also nonsense.

Well, public shaming like this is the only way that they'll have the incentive to change.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

My current favourite mis-translation is for the sign "開放厳禁", often seen on doors, which warns you not to leave the door open, particularly in summer and winter when the building is being cooled or heated.

I was confronted with one they other day, bearing the English translation "Opening the Door is Strictly Prohibited" underneath. I did hesitate for a split-second before going in.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

I like, “For restrooms, go back toward your behind.” Google translate is getting better, though, so enjoy these things while they last.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Engrish is kind of part of the Japanese experience !

Can we at least agree that "Powerhouse Town" is a pretty cool name ?

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Excluding Vietnamese, most Chinese, Taiwanese and SKs tourists speak/read the same broken English as Japanese. So bad English is understood. If the Engrish was perfect, I would not get all the little chuckles I get reading menus and signs...like “we don’t have delicious food” etc.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I am holidaying in Tokyo now and I find the correctness of those signs varies from place to place. However, you do get what they want to tell you. I remember years ago I once saw a signs that wanted to tell people a building was under construction. They used the word "erection" . I could not stop laughing. Since English is not my first language, I am willing to cut them a big block of slack.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

All because the Japanese have never managed to learn the language properly....

Ditto for many English native speakers.

When not sending visitors in the wrong direction I think such errors will enhance the Olympics experience for many foreign visitors. Tokyo will be terribly muggy in August so an occasional laugh will do people good.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

There's a drug store near my office which offers tourists an exemption from consumption tax on their purchases.

A huge yellow banner with massive bold red lettering announces "TAX FREE COUNTER"

Or it would do, if the designer had remembered to include the letter O. As it stands, it just seems to offer an assessment of Republican fiscal policy.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

In developed Asian countries, EngRish is better, easier and suitable than proper English.

Those Engrish words are actually made or say put on purpose. It's a reverse joke or kind of bully on so called Proper English speakers.

(When Japanese speak Engrish or when American or any English speaker sees Engrish words, they all chuckle but when those English speakers speak broken Japanese, Japanese don't laugh but instead teach them properly)

-10 ( +3 / -13 )

Same things actually happened in China before the 2008 Olympic. People just over estimates the power of online translation web sites.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Gems of Japanese-English has been published since the 1980s, Miranda Kendrick has done a few volumes of this, and made a few Yen. But still it goes on. And brightens up many a day.

There are also equivalent volumes for Singlish, Chinglish, Taglish, Thaiglish, and many other Asian langages, though there is a potential market for Eihongo - the bloopers that foreigners make when writing in Japanese!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How about this from Yamada denki the largest home electronics sales company in Japan,

"あなたの暮らしにちょうどいい (Anata no kurashi ni choudo ii) English translation

"For your just only"

When I worked in a Japanese company my japanese colleagues would bring google translated

text for me to correct, would take my time and correct it only to discover to my chagrin later on that the google translated version was used instead.

Maybe the Japanese feel it is a waste of money using the services of a human translator when there is

google translation for free.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

"World Teahouse" makes sense, but how is Daikoku a powerhouse?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Bintaro

Can we at least agree that "Powerhouse Town" is a pretty cool name ?

Absolutely! It was my first home in Japan as a young, fresh-faced gaijin many years ago.

But how they got "Powerhouse Town" out of "大国町" is anyone's guess.

I'd be happy to charge Osaka Metro unconscionably large amounts of money to fix their web copy. if only they'd pay.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I recently checked the website of a certain city in Japan. They are, of course, written in Japanese but also provided English version for foreign residents. However, that was "google translation button" which we cannot expect accurate translation. They are doing this to save money, maybe. This trend is increasing, I am afraid.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

6 years of "English" education and this is the result?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@Schopenhauer

I recently checked the website of a certain city in Japan. They are, of course, written in Japanese but also provided English version for foreign residents. However, that was "google translation button" which we cannot expect accurate translation. They are doing this to save money, maybe. This trend is increasing, I am afraid.

If you were checking the English then I hope your work was of a higher standard than your posts here. The above example is far from accurate.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Google Translate.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Google Translate is spotty at best and downright terrible sometimes. The trouble with most of these translations is that the people doing them don't have a firm enough grasp of the nuances of the two languages. Every time I come across a ridiculous or hilarious translation I take a photo. I have hours of laughter material.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

When Japanese speak Engrish or when American or any English speaker sees Engrish words, they all chuckle but when those English speakers speak broken Japanese, Japanese don't laugh but instead teach them properly

When I first started speaking Japanese I got a mixture of wide-eyed terror, flurries of ‘Eh?!Eh?!Eh?!’ with heads bobbing in different directions, lies about how good my Japanese was, comments about how difficult Japanese is and some kawaiis. Not too many people taught me anything apart from irritating gaijin showing off.

Plenty of Japanese giggle at silly Kanji tattoos. I don’t blame them.

Engrish can be funny too.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

When Japanese speak Engrish or when American or any English speaker sees Engrish words, they all chuckle but when those English speakers speak broken Japanese, Japanese don't laugh but instead teach them properly

I guess this person does not realise that 99% of Japanese English education is taught by Japanese teachers with garbage textbooks for the sole purpose of passing a test.

In this case, the website developers found one of their employees that has a TOEIC score higher than 600 and just said, "You're it! Translate it!" Most of the translations are just straight from an electronic dictionary although, some are just made up gibberish. Most Japanese study English for ten years through secondary and tertiary education, but it's quite obvious that most don't 'learn' a flipping thing, despite being able to pass the tests. Let's not forget, after ten years or more English study only 7% of Japanese adults have a TOEIC score higher than 700. And, only 12% have a basic conversational level of any second language. The J-gov spends $3 billion dollars (US) on English education every year, 93% of which is just thrown out the window. However, it keeps me in a job and I get a good slice of that money.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Engrish is part of the charm of the Japanese. It's makes them sound exotic and naive.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Engrish is part of the charm of the Japanese. It's makes them sound exotic and naive.

It can be a pain in the arse when it causes misunderstandings. I work in manufacturing and there are many cases where a reasonable level of precision is required. Some of the ‘English’ emails sent out from our office are gibberish.

Our rather waspish translator blames the fact that Japanese kids are not taught to write at length with logical structure and precision in Japanese, never mind in English. She sits there growling most of the day.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

@Disillusioned

I have been studying English as a second language since kindergarden. However, due to a lack of practice (read, write, listen, speak) my English was never good. It changed after I moved to Australia at the age of 17. Still I believe there is always room for improvement.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I work in a local government in Japan and a lot of my work involves translation, and I have to say that the amount of machine translation that goes on tourist websites is absolutely depressing. Sometimes I'm asked to check them but what's the point if it's all translated automatically? It's not like I can change the algorithm to give them a decent translation. I'm also asked to promote them through English speaking channels and as you'd expect people either laugh or express disappointment. It kind of kills my mood to continue working here.

And frankly, if they don't just put it through a machine, they give it to the cheapest translator they can find because I can't meet their demand of 15 pages in 2 days.

I've told people until I'm blue in the face that these promotional materials are absolute nonsense and in fact make our area a less attractive place to visit due to the assumed lack of English support and intercultural understanding, but it falls on deaf ears, of course.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

God knows how many times I've translated something properly for a client and they don't believe me

1 hour translating a text, 3 hours explaining and justifying every single word through countless e-mails to the client who always finds something "incorrect" when checking your translation on google translator

10 ( +10 / -0 )

1 hour translating a text, 3 hours explaining and justifying every single word through countless e-mails to the client who always finds something "incorrect" when checking your translation on google translator

God, the amount of times I've had someone look up every word I've written in a dictionary is astounding. I've also had someone (a translator themselves, to be fair, but clearly a native Japanese speaker) send a document back trying to educate me about my own language and telling me that all of my commas are used incorrectly. I sent them back the document in question with every comma's usage rule explained. No contact since, so I imagine the document went through fine.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@finally rich

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@finally rich

If your clients do not trust you and will eventually use Google Translate, why do they go to you in the first place? This just does not make sense.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

ENGRISH provides for some awesome humor. They certainly haven't been worried about travellers or foreigners living here up to now, my guess is they are worried about how funny Engrish will make waves during the Olympics and that bit of reputation they don't want.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@yoshisan88

it's usually an 1 time/once a year client, who reverts my translation (not english) back into japanese using Google Translator just to come back with dozens of silly questions such as "where is the お疲れ様です?" or "why you translated ごちそうさまでした as 'it was really delicious/I am really full'? I didn't use the word 美味しい or お腹いっぱい! "... ... and the mind numbing interaction might last for hours, usually on the same topic, convincing the client you can't translate literally every single word into a foreign language because it sounds really odd, but sometimes I almost give up and say ok go ahead and change the 行ってきます to your "I go out and come back"

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@Kangaesugi

what a pain the neck. at least your proofreaders are other translators, not a monolingual japanese who reverts your translation back into japanese using google translator and demands an explanation about every untranslatable japanese word.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

There's a classic at one of the Hanzomon Line entrances to Jimbocho Station that reads, 'The Toei Shinjuku and Toei Mita Lines can't take it', which appears to be a mutant version of, 'This entrance is not for the Toei Shinjuku or Toei Mita Lines.'

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Unfortunately, it’s really hard for many/most monolingual people to understand that the same concept is often expressed differently or come at from a different perspective in another language; that the same information may be relayed in an entirely different and still achieve the desired outcome.

I think that’s often a reason many foreigners have such troubles trying to learn Japanese - they get hung up on wanting to say their words in Japanese, rather than learning how that same concept would be expressed in Japanese. Then when communication gets awkward, as it invariably does when Japanese people don’t understand what they are talking about, they get frustrated and give up.

Translation can be a difficult job because you have clients who are spending money, but lack the ability to confirm whether or not the final product is good or not. So they sit there with google translate or a dictionary, trying to figure it out.

I got tired of that real quick back in the day when I was working in a Japanese company and some coworkers would do that with my translations.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Talking about lost in translation. A few years ago I was teaching a young lady (mid-30's) in a business English class. Her English was quite good, but she did not have a good grasp of the culture of the language. I asked what she was going to do on the weekend and she replied, "I'm going to stay home and play with my pussy." Of course she meant her cat, but I didn't explain the nuance to her. I didn't think it was appropriate to do so in a private lesson. It took me a few seconds to gather my composure and I just said, "Have a nice weekend." - My point is, due to a textbook based English education they never learn nuance or colloquialisms in context. Most Japanese learners of English only use their textbook and their lessons as a means of mastering english, which is why they fail so badly. Very few will use English outside the classroom and very few will watch English movies or television to learn nuance. This is what creates the hilarious and embarrassing misuses of English.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

So are these mistranslations the consequence of poor English teaching and knowledge, or a result of over-reliance on the likes of Google Translate? And if the latter, why is Google Translate so poor?

Whatever the answer, as a several-time visitor to Japan and a speaker of only basic Japanese I'm always aware of and grateful to those Japanese workers and people I meet whose English knowledge, however imperfect, makes communication between us possible.

Doesn't stop me from having an occasional chuckle, though.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Forgotten centre sounds way cooler. Also, English used to directly translate place-names long ago. Kings town for konigsberg (now kalingrad) and the black forest for Schwartzwald. Kinda seems cool.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

expat

6 years of "English" education and this is the result?

Again, most people will never need it in their entire lives. It's a natural result. In a town of 40 thousands where I grew up, I have never seen a single foreigner. English is not necessary AT ALL in Japan for the majority of the people.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Tokyo bus station has classics such as:

"Do not enter in flowering plants"

"Do not lie down"

"It will ban the act to be a nuisance to other customers"

"Do distribution of flyers or similar and No speech"

Not outright hilarious (apart from the first), but all stilted, even those that are grammatically correct.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

"There must not be the claps during service."

English from Swedish translation, if I recall, in a tourist area church.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Never use the internet to translate, you cheapskates. Pay someone to do it properly.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Luddite:

Never use the internet to translate, you cheapskates. Pay someone to do it properly.

Depends. I use google to translate people's comments written in languages I have no knowledge of. I know it's not accurate but gives me enough hints to guess what they are saying. It's a valuable tool. I am not interested in learning those languages; I am certainly not paying anything for it.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Madden:

God knows how many times I've translated something properly for a client and they don't believe me, at first I would argue about it but nowadays I just say the customer is always right and take their money, I just make sure that their "suggestions" are documented so that if a native speaker complains and the come back to me I can clearly show them who's fault it is.

I see a lot of punctuation errors in your sentence here. No wonder they did not believe you.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I wish there was some freelance job translating these. Easy money, and I could with some extra cash. There's a lot of work to do, but whether they have money to pay you is another thing.

socrateos:

Depends. I use google to translate people's comments written in languages I have no knowledge of. I know it's not accurate but gives me enough hints to guess what they are saying. It's a valuable tool. I am not interested in learning those languages; I am certainly not paying anything for it.

You'd change your tune if you needed it for your own company or job. That is the whole point of this article. Who cares if someone is wearing a T-shirt with grammatically wrong English or French? Their jobs or lives don't depend on it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

madden:

OK, I'll narrow it down for you:

who's fault it is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japan has got to stop creating their "own" definitions using English language and get real once and for all. As they demand foreigners to learn their language appropriately, we too must enforce them to adhere accordingly with English. There is just too many misunderstandings!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Machine translation doesn't work for Japanese. It just shows the lack of care the person or company has for doing something correct.

Ive seen shopping mall signs with such bad translations, once a disabled toilet was translated to "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA".... Go figure?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Having worked as an JE translator, and sometimes interpreter, for nearly 20 years in Japan, I can confirm there is a huge problem with (some) non-native English speakers thinking they know better than English speakers how to translate Japanese into English, as mentioned by others in this thread. I am posting this to offer these other translators my support, as some people are giving them criticism for writing what is an evident truth.

It is almost as if certain unnecessary editors feel that Japanese belongs to them and is theirs to mold even when it is being expressed through translation into another language. The reasons behind this are fascinating. I believe it relates to many issues, many of which are rooted in the common Japanese cultural belief that Japanese people and everyone else are virtually two different species.

This presumption explains why (some) Japanese people feel that non-Japanese can never truly understand (and therefore can never truly translate) their language.

In addition to the feeling that foreigners can never interpret Japanese properly, the desire to correct the English of native English speakers is also not unrelated to the low status of non-Japanese in any Japanese decision-making system, where, as far as is practical, people who are not Japanese are often not given responsibility for doing anything of lasting importance.

A third issue relates to the issue that was mentioned on JT the other day in the context of inefficient working practices. Many people feel that if a translation comes across there desk and they do not modify it, they are in danger of lowering their own value in the organization through failure to contribute.

As a final factor influencing the tendency of (some) Japanese people to (badly) police English language translation, we can throw in a sprinkling of frustration at difficulties speaking English despite years of study and confidence in one's ability in other areas, which results in a desire to "prove yourself". In Japan, in professional circles, the ability to speak good English, and show other people that you can, is a matter of status, so frequently people want to assert their credentials.

If you want a good translation of Japanese into English, you need a native English speaker. Of course, that native English speaker could be a Japanese person too. The native language requirement is however obvious and non-negotiable. It is sad that many non native English speakers in Japan have trouble accepting this and feel some odd threat when native English speakers tell them what their Japanese content should look like when translated into our language.

Note that this approach will not fly the other way around.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My Japanese wife and I work as a team. I will usually spend the time to knock up a rough translation then we'll work together. I think working together we can produce a better end translation than working separately. We translate a wide range of documents including legal, medical, science, engineering.

Our clients are always happy with the standards of our work.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

So are these mistranslations the consequence of poor English teaching and knowledge, or a result of over-reliance on the likes of Google Translate? And if the latter, why is Google Translate so poor?

Google Translate. And it's not that it's poor, it's actually really quite amazing. Rather, it's just that English and Japanese are very far apart in how they are constructed, so it's hard to create an algorithm to map it out.

With Japanese, the subject, and often even participles (conjoinders) in a sentence can be and are dropped.

For example, "I'm going to the store" in English, directly translated would be "watashi wa omise ni ikimasu", but it's not entirely natural. Generally it would be written "Omise ni ikimasu", where the subject isn't included in the first place, being implied and therefore not required. Translating that back to English, you get 'going to the store'. This of course is unnatural in English, as it is a sentence fragment. We wonder 'who is going to the store'. So the machine translators add a subject, since one is required in English, but they don't know if it's me, or you, or him, or her, or what. So you get a lot of 'it is going to the store' or awkward things like that.

And that's just one small example.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

What do you expect when they use Google Translate to do translations.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Lol, even Cloud AI translation are getting better at a faster rate than Japan

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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