Monday, June 06, 2011

The Gangster May Cheat You!

We've seen this one before, but I can't resist. It's in the ATMs in the atrium of the upscale mini-mall next to the new bus station just north of the Taipei Train station. I suppose it is pointless to ask why First Bank can't afford an English editor.
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Brendan said...

Apart from the dodgy English, what I don't understand is how "the gangster" would cheat you using the English interface. The notice is bilingual and says English in both languages, so I think it's for everybody, not not just all those poor, easily-bamboozled foreigners.

Jenna said...

I once went to a First Bank ATM and hit "English" simply so I could take a picture of this screen...

Thoth Harris said...

I think it's one of these conundrums of logic, on the order of all Cretans are liars, etc.
This message is a lie, written by a gangster.
The above message is a lie. Do not believe it.

kuanyui said...

I think this is used to warn the Taiwanese who don't understand English,because it is possible that scammers ask (via cellphone) those people to operate ATM in English UI.

What you meant should be that "in fact,there doesn't need English warning at all",right?

(I'm an ordinary Taiwanese student)

Michael Turton said...

Sure, I agree Mr Student. But that's no excuse for sloppy English work. Doesn't this reflect on the corporation's image?


Herman said...

I love reading these translation oddities. It's a lot of fun if you don't take it too seriously.

"Long time no see" (好久不見). Isn't that a wonderful expression? If you try "Good Long No See", that's even more literal and high fidelity. If I say "good long no see" a hundred times, then people will understand me just fine. What's that? What I say 3 times is true?! Isn't that how some people understand things anyway? If they don't want to understand it, then even if I say "haven't seen you in ages", they still won't understand what I say, and take it to mean something else.

All those Charlie-Chan English makes me laugh. I mean I really like the humor in it. Especially so since I learned Chinese before I learned English. Sure there were racial undertones and prejudices behind them, but I get to choose where and what the joke is for myself. I can make it go any which way in my own mind. The Chinese joke is "if a dog barks at you, do you bark back at the dog?" I guess I should count my blessings that I didn't live around the era of Chinese Exclusion Act in the land of Uncle Sam. I sure would sing a a different tune if that were the case.

Look at it from another angle. Suppose that ATM message is perfectly correctly translated. What's gained here? So that you guys don't have to learn to read Chinese? Alright, you don't have to read Chinese if you don't want to. But think of the loss of not having that dodgy translation. That is a window to how some Chinese (OK, Taiwanese) think about English. You want psychological profiling on ESL (English as a second language) Asians? That ATM message is a piece of raw data for ya. A lot of academic analysis can be done, or good jokes made all around, on that "gangster" stuff. But ask yourself, do you remember how it was when you tried to speak your French or Japanese or Mandarin to the native speakers and how they reacted?

I hope some Chinese/Taiwanese educators are reading this and say something. I lament the fact that much of the written Chinese nowadays has transformed, and becomes sprinkled with large doses of English phrases. The "old early flavor" (古早味) in our "mother tongue" is quickly eroding, flavors that evoke the feelings of "return taste no poor" (回味無窮). If Dr. Lin Yu-tang is alive today, he would have been able to say something sensible, and suggest ways to playfully poetify these computerese that are English hashed into Chinese and hashed back to English again.

Okami said...

Maybe I'm just cynical after all these years, but correct English would of surprised me more.

CLB said...

The weird English is entertaining. It's one of the things that makes life in Taiwan so much fun. Lots more examples at

The real point is, it doesn't have to be this way. English translation is often a line item on a budget. In Taiwan, I doubt there is a shortage of people capable of doing decent translations or editing the translations into decent English. This gets back to Michael's point in previous posts: they just don't seem to care enough to want to make sure it's done right.

Herman said...

Please forgive the inept outburst of this little Mandarin (滿大人, or Manchurian noble, whose version of the spoken Chinese was conducted in the court of the Ching dynasty in Peking), I too humbly agree that correct English is better than a bad one.

I was attempting to think about how do you correct someone else's language. Surely the younger, fresher minds are easier to impress and steer. But it is the minds of those who are entrenched in their own thoughts, their own viewpoints and habits, that is the brick wall that I am looking at. And a mirror on that brick wall shows me my own insistence and stubbornness that I have to laugh at myself a little.

But on the serious side, the more we try to correct some people's thoughts and ideas, the more they dig in to their defensive positions, and we in turn escalate our own offensive rhetoric. No? Do you see that or is it just me? How can we get out of this mess?

JT Kirk said...

CLB; yep. Maybe the English teachers here should be more aggressive. Take a leaf out of the Mormon's book.

Thoth Harris said...

Yup - praise Hitchen's Almighty for the Mormons.