Friday, September 09, 2011

Friday Musings

Had a lot of fun the last few weeks working on an English consultant gig for the central and local governments. Traveled in Pingtung, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taoyuan, and Taitung. Really a lot of fun, met interesting people, saw a lot of the island.

I know many local expats are incredulous when they see how awful the English translations can be here, but in fact the locals I met all wanted to do a good job, but they seem to lack imagination as to how to go about it. A common issue I ran across with at least three local governments was blatant fraud on the part of local translation firms. In several different cases the local government contracted with a local translation firm to provide translation, and was told that a skilled native speaker would do the work. It was obvious from the final product, however, that the jobs had all been done by a skilled second language speaker and contained tell-tale, typical Chinese native speaker grammar and usage errors. Despite this common issue, there did not seem to be any policy in place for review of translation work that was paid for, either formally or informally. It was accepted and posted without further trouble.

Another common problem was the fundamental marketing failures of so many of the little restaurants, shops, and bed-and-breakfasts we visited. Like not having even a single sign outside in English with a basic "We Speak English" to reassure foreign tourists that they can get English language services (we repeatedly ran into locals with excellent English skills). Like not even having a sign on the main road to point visitors to their location, in any language, let alone a foreign one. How do people find you? I'd ask. "The internet" was the common refrain -- people blogging on their experiences at a given place. Basically, word of mouth.

One of the privileges of being a foreigner here is meeting people in high places. This week I met the Deputy County Chief of Taitung County. Informed, energetic, and extremely kind, he showed us around his county and was a font of information. He pointed out that when he was in college, Taitung had 280,000 people. It has lost 50K people since that time. The city is revitalizing its center now that the train station has (insanely) been moved out to the boondocks, and he told us how much of the old infrastructure is becoming art, culture, and leisure parks, bike trails and similar. For those of you who know Miaoli, he was the architect of that County's preservation policies, including places like Mingde Reservoir and the Longteng Broken Bridge. Kudos to him, those were great jobs. He also took us out to the Museum of Prehistory, well worth a visit. The displays are professional, the staff helpful, and the area it covers is vast.

Have a good weekend! Hope to see you out and about The Beautiful Island.
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1 comment:

Steve said...

I noticed in this Taipei Times article today that Su seems much more popular than Wu and has helped the Tsai ticket but what I found most interesting was that the KMT refuses to release internal polling.

“Unlike the DPP, which always uses its polls as a campaign tool, the KMT only uses internal polls for our own reference,” is a subtle way of saying that internal KMT polls are not showing positive results for the party. The KMT uses anything it can get its hands on as a campaign tool so the statement is telling.