Sometimes English signs and messages should be proofread before being printed.
This coffee cup, for example, says “小心燙口,” which is translated quite literally as “burn the mouth carefully.” It should be translated more like “Caution: Hot Beverage.”
Of course, there are many humorous examples. Some clothes say not to use “cry cleaning,” and a few restaurants may offer up a dish called “hot and sour dirty.”
But it’s the thought that counts. People are opening their hearts to try and communicate with the rest of the world, even if they’re not entirely sure how. And practice makes perfect. Since I first came to Taiwan five years ago, the level of English seems to have continued to climb. So if someone tries their best but doesn’t quite succeed, be a sport and encourage them rather than laughing.
After all–the poorly written English signs found here are so much better than those Chinese character tattoos that are so popular in the West. There’s a highly amusing blog called Hanzi Smatter (Hanzi or 漢子 means Chinese characters) that collects bad tattoo decisions and tells unsuspecting victims what their ink really says.
Here’s one of my favorites. The tattooed thought this character (麵) means “loyalty.” What it actually means is “noodles.”
I’m not quite a loyal-enough noodle eater to want this tattoo for myself.
The lesson to take away from all of this? Look before you leap. If you don’t speak a foreign language, don’t pretend that you can just to look cool. And when other people make mistakes in a foreign language, be nice and help correct them if you can. Of course, when ink has been permanently embedded into your skin at a tattoo parlor, there’s not much you can do to correct it. At times like that, I guess, it’s ok to laugh.