Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Lost in Translation

I had to borrow the title for the Sophia Coppola movie for this post...

I have a rough time understanding what is going on most of the day (yes, Fargus, I know I do even in the States), but it is very difficult for me here. I have a translator, Ngee Siew... his main job is to translate for me and help me get along with people in business. But here's the thing... I love the guy to death (he's the only actual friend I've got out here) but his grammar is not always spot on. Don't get me wrong... this guy has a really hard job and is phenominal at it. I would think regular translation is hard enough, but he has to translate technical conversation. Perhaps the below examples will illustrate what I mean.

Today, I was having a discussion with the Yantai Site Manager. It was his turn to speak, and he went on for about four minutes, using all sorts of gestures. When he was done speaking, I turned to Ngee Siew and said, "Well... what did he say." His response? "Barcode." Thats it.. one word. I said, "What about a barcode? We have one, he wants to use one? What?". Response... "Barcode system."

During lunch today, some of my coworkers were having a conversation. I asked Ngee Siew and he said, "Build team support". Well... what about build team support? We need to....? We are currently? What does that mean? I then when on to explain to him as nicely as I could the importance of a subject in the sentance. I gave him other examples where he leaves out one or two words and it completely messes up the translation.

Occasionally though, mistranslations can be HILARIOUS. I thought about leaving this one out, because its not really family friendly, but we are all adults, so...

At dinner this evening, I was eating a dumpling that had cucumber in it. Wangyen, a co-worker, asked if I liked it. I said I did very much, but I thought I could also taste peanuts in it. She said, "No, not peanuts... it has penis paste in it." I honestly don't know how I avoided spraying my food everywhere and making her feel dumb... after a few minutes of discussion I realized she meant that it had "peanut butter" in it. Her mispronunciation coupled with the mistranslation of butter into paste led to a delicacy that I would rather not be eating.

And with that, I'm off to bed.