As an English instructor in Asia for the past 21 years, one of the things that I have done a lot in the classroom is correct language mistakes—in most cases, incorrect translations or incorrect verb or other vocabulary usage. Sometimes it is like being a “language mechanic”—fixing some of these common mistakes and language that gets lost in translation.
Of course, not of all these mistakes get fixed, especially when someone thinks they know English well enough not to consult with a native speaker or even someone with better English proficiency to check their English when writing a menu, directions on how to do something, or even the name of a restaurant or other establishment.
For example, back when I lived in Seoul there was this chicken place called Kenturkey Chicken. Obviously, the owner was keen on some name recognition—Kentucky Fried Chicken—to attract more customers; just didn’t see the humor in the misspelling of Kentucky I guess.
I know it’s not in the acme of good taste to laugh when you come across an incorrect translation or misuse of English—especially when you are an English teacher and should be sensitive and compassionate to those who make such mistakes—but darn it, sometimes this stuff is just too darn funny.
Take this list of rules and regulations for a hotel that I stayed at in Savannakhet. My favorite one is in Part II Number 2: “Visitors will not be laundered, cooked in the room, smoked cigarettes on the bed and made a noise to another visitor.”
The irony is that even though we know the English usage is appalling, we still understand what they are trying to say. Not everything gets lost in translation.