If you’ve ever been to Japan you’ve seen the interesting English translations on everything from notebooks to handkerchiefs to slippers people wear in the restroom. When you least expect it, you’ll find an English phrase such as, “Enjoy happy life in summer.”
Those phrases were the source of many chuckles while I lived in Japan.
Don’t get the wrong impression–I was anything but immune to making language mishaps myself. Since that time, whenever I’ve needed to translate content and regardless of the language, I’ve been committed to the importance of hiring native speakers or people with the ability to speak a foreign language with native ability.
In this recent this article published by eLearning Brothers, I share one particularly embarrassing language mishap, as well as my suggestions for how to support bilingual eLearning when developing content:
I taught English in Japanese public junior and senior high schools for three years, and my experiences in the classroom taught me this: word-for-word translation doesn’t work. The perfect example comes from one of the first lessons I led. The lesson about vocabulary associated with family: father, mother, sister, brother, etc. As I was “introducing” my family to a room full of 12-year-old students, I put a photo of my mother on the screen.
“This is my mother. Her name is Gayl,” I said.
Giggles erupted in the front row. Weird, I thought…I didn’t think I’d made a joke.
I continued with the lesson, introducing the rest of my family. At the end of class, I went through the full introduction for review. Again, giggles.
“What’s funny?” I asked.
Convincing a Japanese student to stand out from their classmates can be difficult, but finally, I convinced one boy to tell me what was funny.
“Your mother’s name…Gayl. In Japanese it means…” he opened up his dictionary
Find out what was funny, and read the whole article at the eLearning Brothers blog.