"Tainglish": Taiwan’s Bad English Ads
A few weeks ago I made a one day trip to Tainan. I took the High Speed Rail (HRS), the fastest way to get there. While I was sitting on the train I leafed through the official HRS magazine and found the following ad.
Now, what does this exactly mean? “Inspire the fascinate dream of travelers”.
All right, no one is perfect. I know how difficult it is for someone who is not a native speaker to write in English (since I belong to this group). I don’t blame people who make mistakes and I don’t mind making mistakes myself. But that’s different for a company which is paying to have its ad published on a magazine.
There are two possibilities: either did the owner/s ask a relative to translate the sentence into English in order to save money; or they hired a translator who lied about his or her English skills, or who got hired only thanks to ‘guanxi’ and was totally unqualified for the job.
An even more striking example – inside Taipei main station there is a huge ad with an incredible misspelling. Look at this:
Have you noticed it? Yes, exactly:
What should we make of this? I mean, they could have just checked a dictionary. I understand it’s excruciating to check every single word in a long text if you’re not a native speaker. But that’s just a sentence, it wouldn’t have taken much time. Besides, this is supposed to be a professional ad. Did the boss ask a friend or relative to translate it in order to save some money? And how comes it that nobody noticed it? This ad made it on a wall in Taipei main station and no one noticed the mistake.
Actually, in my humble opinion they don’t need to use English. We are in Taiwan and most people speak Chinese. Usually this sort of ads have 99% Chinese and 1% English, because it looks cool and sophisticated to have something written in English. You want to prove your company is international. But if you really want to show your company is international, at least hire someone who can proofread your ads.
This is not an isolated case. A famous Japanese bakery chain uses a slogan written in English, which makes no sense at all. Some day I might take a picture of that, too.
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