Language experts have attributed a glaring translation error on a map published by China Airlines (CAL) to a lack of respect for professional translators on the part of the airline.
Returning to Taiwan from New Delhi last month, a Taiwanese surnamed Lee was puzzled to see the map of Taiwan shown on the in-flight TV screen included a county he had never heard of. It was not until later that he realized that the airline’s translators, working from an English translation, had misinterpreted the romanization for “Chiai” and had re-translated it back into Chinese as “Chi-ai” (qiai, 奇埃) instead of “Chia-i,” the Chinese-language newspaper United Daily News reported on Sunday.
The official romanization for the county is Chiayi.
Chiayi County’s tourism bureau chief is not amused, describing it as a “serious mistake” and has demanded an immediate correction.
The airline has promised to correct the Chinese characters for the county as soon as possible.
Vincent Chang (張武昌), a professor at National Taiwan Normal University’s Department of English, said the mistake showed that the airline had obviously ignored the importance of translation. The company could easily have avoided the mishap simply by employing a competent editor, he noted.
Chen Chao-ming (陳超明), an English professor at National Chengchi University, said many government agencies and businesses are in the habit of giving very low priority to their translation projects and go with the lowest bidder, regardless of their skills, to save money.
They invariably end up with “wrong English translations produced by translation machines,” Chen said.
Similar translation mistakes, coupled with the failure to implement a universal form of the widely recognized Pinyin romanization, are not uncommon in Taiwan, particularly on street signs or signage at public transport facilities. The phenomenon causes widespread confusion, irritation and mockery among foreign visitors.