September 13, 2012

chicken translators

This picture was circulating online some years ago, helping our day with a great stock of laughter. In case you don't know Turkish and wonder what possibly the sign in English is trying to say, it is trying to say: "Grilled Chicken". Lost in translation? Well, you can say so.

Other than being mocked by the entire nation, the owner of this sign probably has another problem: i bet he still wonders why this big sign hasn't affected the number of visitors, especially foreign ones, even though he paid a handsome amount of money for it. So you see, there's also micro economic crisis going on here.

So, assume that you are taking some fancy class in college and your professor asked you in the exam: "Considering the fact that, this sign and all the alike are not isolated incidents but a clear sign of business going bad, what would be your suggestion to solve it?"

Now assume that one of your classmates answered: "We should teach everyone perfect English," and another friend of yours said: "We should make sure that business owners understand this very simple notion that hiring a professional service is not loss of money. Instead, it will help you boost your business."

So who do you think will pass the exam?

The author of an article I read almost six months ago seems to believe in the first answer.  She complains about the diminishing quality of English being spoken in her country.

At first, I thought that she was right. They and we need a better education for our children to learn better English. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. But then, I started to feel that there's something wrong with the article which disturbs me somehow.

Then I figured.

Did I tell you that she is from Malaysia and the she complains about the quality of English being spoken in Malaysia? Do people who say "Let's makan" insted of  "Let's have a lunch," or some school kids who say "Let me pass away" while in fact they  wanted to say "Let me pass through", or a businessman who tries to attract tourists with a sign shouting "chicken translate" while in fact he simply meant "grilled chicken"  indicate a serious education problem?

I don't think so.

Why does a public figure say something like "Let's makan"? Why doesn't he say it in his own language if he is already surrounded with people who understand what "makan" is? Or, why do some school children even try to speak English in a non-class environment in a non-English speaking country?

Of course it is a good thing to know a foreign language well enough to make sure that you are giving the correct message. Or, it is even better if you hire a professional to do that for you, but why does it have to be perfect? Why are you supposed to speak English or any other second language as perfect as possible? As a matter fact,  is it even possible?

If you want to read the article I mentioned, it is here.

And if you wonder why the hell i laughed at the sign if i totally advocate not being perfect at English, well, I didn't laugh because the guy used wrong words. I laughed because he dared to think he can do the job himself if only he finds a dictionary.

So what I am saying is, let's learn a foreign language, actually, let's not stop there and learn a second foreign language, even a third one, yay, but let's not let it dominate our domestic education.