The pitfalls of translation

The pitfalls of translation

Recently there was an article online (The 37 Most Awkward English Fails You Can Only Find In Asia) that showed funny signs in Asia (primarily China) with very amusing translations into English.  They are always a good laugh, but humor aside, we can learn something about the Chinese culture by analysing this translation.


The picture shows a dish called “Chicken rude and unreasonable”.  The English translation is actually a reasonable one. “Pola” is directly translated as rude and unreasonable, and normally used to describe a person who is rude and unreasonable (usually female who is just emotional without logic).

So why does the Chinese menu use a descriptive word as a dish name?

Being rude and unreasonable is associated with fire element and hot/chili is also associated with the fire element.  Pola is used to describe someone who is extremely fiery and by association, hot/chili is also fiery.


But why can’t the dish just be “chilli chicken”?

The image is a photo of the pola dish. Everything covered on top are chilies and spices, which means that this dish is extremely spicy, and beyond the normal degree of chili.  “Chili chicken” therefore cannot justify the dish; it is so spicy that can only fully describe it by “rude and unreasonable”!