Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lost in Translation

Maybe it was because I'd just received an e-mail about Lonely Planet's Lost in Translation contest, or perhaps because I had just returned from a particularly numbing visit to the dentist (and needed of a bit of cheering up), but last night I spent several happy minutes browsing Engrish.com.

As a former English major and an avid traveler, nothing gets me laughing like a good bit of Engrish - it may not be very politically correct, but these little gems of grammatical guesswork certainly are entertaining!

Opening Soon: Chinatown Disney Cafe. Order, if you dare!
(Photo courtesy of Engrish.com)

While I laugh at the awkward toilet signs and tear up at the unintentionally embarrassing t-shirts, my favorites are the mis-translated menus. They're not always the most amusing, but they're often the most bizarre - and they remind me of the brief time I spent as a menu translator in Germany. Since German shares a lot of similarities with English, my job wasn't nearly as humorous as the creators' of Engrish.com, but it certainly had its moments.

How patriotic!
(Photo courtesy of Engrish.com)

I stumbled into the work on the recommendation of a German friend who, as a more-than-competent English-speaker, had done a lot of translating herself. She was looking for a partner and I found the work so interesting that I couldn't resist. My German is conversational, at best, but I certainly knew enough menu words in both languages to make the translation easy. I would pore over the menus for a few minutes or hours (depending on how much help was needed!), submit my corrections, and then enjoy a delicious meal on the house.

On my first job, I got 'paid' in fried carp - fresh from a local pond - and the rich flavor and tender flesh was a revelation . I knew, then, that I had found the perfect job; I made my own hours, found the work fascinating, and often got paid in food - what more could a hungry girl want?

Goodness knows why people keep having a bad reaction to this dish!
(Photo courtesy of Engrish.com)

Sadly, my return to the States cut my 'career' - and my source of free dinners - abruptly short. Although it was never intended to be a wage-earning job, I'd certainly recommend it as an option for starving students abroad!  In addition to earning me a seat in restaurants I'd never have been able to visit otherwise, it also provided a bit of income and an entertaining experience that, now, can only be relived by scrolling through pages hilarity ridden pages of Engrish.com. Go on, eat up and enjoy!

For when a little crap just isn't enough
(Photo courtesy of Engrish.com)

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