Another backdated post in which I reminisce about the joy to be found in Asians using and abusing the English language – 21st September, 2013
It is one of my favourite things ever. In fact, I am positively against too much quality English teaching in Asia. I fear that if high standards become too widespread, Engrish might die out and be lost completely.
It makes me positively happy that across Asia there are people being paid good money to do a worse job than your basic Google Translate function – filling an entire continent with gibberish on signage, packaging and leaflets.
Although the complete gibberish is, to me, a little disappointing. You get this a lot on Tshirts: the jazzy design will be supplemented with Western-looking text which could well have been produced by my 10 month old son during his “let’s smash my hands down on Mummy’s keyboard’ sessions.
These ones make you feel a lot like your eyesight is failing, because until you establish they are just a random series of Roman characters, you are straining to decipher the words. This can lead to a lot of questionable staring at people’s chests.
No, I prefer the ones which look ALMOST right – till you look more closely.
Then there are the ones where all the words are spelt correctly but the meaning has definitely been scrambled during the translation process.
Or the ones which are vaguely understandable – but just sound bonkers:
And of course, the ones which are perfectly acceptable – but carry slightly unusual connotations to a native speaker:
(Actually, based on my experience of massage in Taiwan, that last one is a fairly accurate description. I had bruises in the shape of thumbprints after one particularly brutal session administered by a tiny girl who looked like a stiff breeze would knock her down.)
An ill-chosen brand name or two also have the power to delight.
And I know I’ve mentioned it before, but seriously, they did not do market research on Westerners for this particular delicacy.
I’ve delighted in Engrish in Japan too (they excel at it there). It’s hard to express the simple pleasure I got in Nagasaki from a hotel razor adorned with the words: Enjoy a happy shaving for your fresh life.
But living abroad for longer turned up a wealth of examples. I wish I had documented more of them but, for now, here are some of the ones I – with help from friends and family – did manage to collect.
Engrish makes me happy. Please share your Engrish discoveries from around the world with me!
And if you want to enjoy more Engrish, there’s always the ever-fabulous www.engrish.com