Inside China
Becoming "Modern"
China Popular Culture
80后
Culture Shock
Additional categories . . .
Reading the Paper
Pic of the Day by Category
Home  /  Inside China  /  Lost in Translation?
Lost in Translation? print version

English slogans for Chinese products are often directed at Chinese customers, who appreciate western sophistication, even when such titles are actually funny and meaningless English sentences.

It is often assumed that English names and slogans for Chinese products in mainland China are intended to attract foreign customers or importers, though in some cases such titles are rather directed at the Chinese crowd. When one looks carefully at the English sentences written on Chinese products he or she would often find big words, but no coherent sentences. Is it bad translation of Chinese content or do such companies try to make an impression on Chinese customers, who don't master English, but do enjoy feeling a western taste?

An English speaking foreigner in China often encounters bad translation jobs, whether in warning signs on the street, speaker announcement on trains or in bilingual touristic brochures. Still, in some cases, the incoherent English of such titles, printed on products by their distributers, aren't a result of bad translation, since such slogans are intended to appear impressive from a distance. That is to say, a non-English speaker wouldn't tell they are more ridiculous than poetic, more confusing than promoting.

An example for such a trend is the Choose Nuts series of the Tian He Long (天和隆), a manufacture of food and beverages in Jinan, Shandong. The Choose Nuts series includes five dry food products: Pistachio, walnut, pine nut, almond and dry banana. Even if we regard Choose Nuts as a legitimate name, the additional English titles will make one wonder what in fact they are trying to say. In the promotion title Chinese is used on the package only in the company name (天和隆), name of product (for example 香蕉片 - Banana slices) and one short sentence, written in a small font, on the top of the bag.

English, on the other hand, appears in the big font 'Choose Nuts' title, in a slogan 'Return to Natural' (above the product name), in the sticking out title 'Give you the memorable feeling' and in two other longer slogans, appearing in smaller fonts: 'Let's make the high quality of our own return to reality' and 'special taste, return the high flavour. Give you the memorable feeling'. There are no Chinese versions for these titles on the product.

 
img_2026_1063

 Choose Nuts 'magical' bag. Pay attention to the English slogans marked in red.



The short titles are perhaps not completely incorrect grammatically. However, even if the motif of generating associations with something natural and nostalgic, sayings such as 'let's make the high quality of our return to reality' (where are we returning from? How do we make quality?) or 'special taste, return the high flavour' (does the taste return the flavor or is the customer supposed to do that? What is a 'high flavour' anyway?) remain a flash of non comprehendible terms.

Most Chinese customers perhaps won't insist on reading the sentences with extra attention and won't point out syntactic flaws nor will they notice the empty meaning of such expressions. When not reading carefully, the English slogans of 'Choose Nuts' can give a convincing impression of a 'quality product' which is perhaps also appreciated by customers of high standards. Although Choose Nuts are produced in Shandong, the English slogans might create an impression we are dealing with a western product (or at least a product often consumed by westerners), hence giving the product an additional sophistication and attaching associations of quality and modernity to it.  

Funny titles or not, without discounting the intelligence of Chinese customers, adding English slogans to products can be more meaningful than the content in such titles. A welcoming design and some sophisticated terms are in some cases an attraction for customer who wish to have some western flavor in their products. Whether Tian He Long are aware of their English mistakes or not, only they know, but cetainly it is more important for them to sorround their products with a western flavor then to master English grammer.

Want to contribute something to this topic? - 想添加与这个话题有关的内容?



Related Articles

•  The Laowai Effect – A Symbol of Quality in the Chinese Sky
•  表面上 - The nice surface-face of China
•  Chinese people, English language - A love-fear relationship
•  Sexy Mandarin: The appeal of Chinese language through bodies of women

Tell a friend - 发给朋友

China LinksLanguage CenterPicture of the DayChinese Language PartnerAbout 关于Contact 联系Sitemap
© 2012 All rights reserved to thinkingchinese.com