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Learn French Before You Hijack February 17, 2007

Posted by Edwin in French, Humour.
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This story just came out today.

“A cunning pilot thwarted a hijacking by discreetly warning the passengers in French — a language the gunman didn’t speak — that he would knock the attacker off-balance with a rough landing, and that they should be ready to pounce.”

Note the irony that the hijacker wants to go to France, but he cannot speak their language. He comes from Mauritania, West Africa, which is a former French colony and while the official language is Arabic, most have some knowledge of French.

You may not want to become a hijacker, but this story does illustrate and important point – know the languages of your own country and the country you are planning to live in.


Fun With Global Translator February 7, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Cantonese, English, Humour, Mandarin.
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Here is a follow-up on my recent post “Fish Jokes“.

Although I discourage my fellow-bloggers to provide machine-translation links to their pages, from a reader’s point of view, I do find the existence of these links very meaningful. Indeed, they are extremely entertaining!

This site has just installed a WordPress plugin called the Global Translator, as described by its post today. I can’t wait to entertain myself by checking out some translations of that page.

Let’s look at the Chinese translation for example. The original first sentence of the page is:

“Today I added another nice wordpress plugin to my list of top wordpress plugins I use.”

It is translated to:


First of all, note that it is not a proper sentence at all. Next, if you look closely, ‘nice’ has been mistaken as the place Nice. The translation of the phrase “top wordpress plugins I use” does not make any sense. In fact, ‘顶我’ sounds rude in Chinese.

If you go down to the bottom, you will be amazed to find a list of ‘recent job posts’ (近期职位)!

The plugin is nice enough though to provide the original text if you ‘mouse over’ the translated text.

Disclaimer: I have no intention to poke fun at the author and his blog. The author himself already warned in the post that there are shortcomings using the translation plugin.

Fish Jokes February 2, 2007

Posted by Edwin in French, Humour.

I have seen many bloggers providing Babel Fish links to instantly translate their blogs into many languages. Here is a piece of advice from me: Don’t!

Those who have used Babel Fish before should know that it does not provide accurate translations. Well, not even close! We have to understand that the service is intended to give readers only rough translations of the texts. It is by no means a service to produce official translated documents or web pages. Despite the advance of modern technologies, we still need to rely on human to do these tasks.

Not only do the Fish translations often turn out to be inaccurate, sometimes they even turn out to be hilariously so. Your page could become a potential target for readers to poke fun at.

Sometimes, it is your blog that is not providing the correct information, and the Fish translates it based on the wrong assumption. For instance, once in my now-retired French blog, I had my language set to French, but my blogging application was not flexible enough to translate everything on the page. There was still the label “About Me” displayed in English. I provided a link to translate my page into English. The Fish thought the label was a French phrase and translated it into “Butt Me”!

Do you really know what it is actually saying in the translated versions of your blog? Even if you happen to know all targeted languages, do you have the time to proof read your blog under each translation for each update? Say if the Fish translates a word incorrectly in one language, are you willing to change the original word just to fix that translation? Remember, you still have to make sure the change doesn’t ‘break’ the other translations. What a pain!

I have another ‘fish joke’. A while ago, I came across a news article in French from the web, what had a line:

“Les Chinois qui ont dû payer une taxe d’entrée à leur arrivée au Canada ont reçu jeudi les excuses officielles du gouvernement canadien.”

I plugged it into the Fish, and out it came:

“The Chinese who had to pay a tax of entry to their arrival in Canada received Thursday the official excuses of the Canadian government.”

There must be lots of ‘fish jokes’ out there. If you have one, please feel free to share with me. I would love to here it!

Chips, Please January 26, 2007

Posted by Edwin in English, Humour.

“What would you like to go with the steak, Sir?” asked the waiter.

“Chips, please”, I replied.

It was a couple of years ago, when I and some colleagues got sent down to the U.S. for a project. There we were in a restaurant in an old town in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the New York state.

I was too occupied chatting with my colleagues that I responded to the waiter using my reflex. The waiter (probably a new hire) then opened up a package of ‘chips’ to accompany my steak. It happened right in front of my own eyes!

This, of course, wouldn’t have happened during my 8 years in U.K., where I would occasionally order ‘fish & chips’ for takeaway takeout. We called those slices of pre-packaged fried potatoes ‘crisps’.

The pre-packaged fried potatoes are called ‘chips’ here in North America. The ‘home-style’ potato chips are called ‘fries’ or ‘french fries’ here. I learned this fairly quickly after moving to Toronto, and had been cautious enough not to mix them up until that day, when it just caught me by surprise.

As you may have heard a while ago, some people from the US even wanted to rename ‘french fries’ to something else.

A Family of Mice January 12, 2007

Posted by Edwin in Humour.

A family of mice was surprised by a big cat. Mother mouse opened her mouth and shouted, “Woof woof!” The cat got scared and ran away.

“What was that, Mum?” asked the youngest mouse.

“Well dear, I’ve told you how important it is to learn a second language.”

This is my all-time favourite language joke. I like the way it stresses the importance of knowing an additional language. I used the joke to open my Toastmasters speech #9, which I delivered in November last year. The objective of the speech was to persuade, and my topic was on language learning. I remember a few club members told me that they actually had the desire to pick up some languages after hearing my speech.

This joke has a variant which involves a dog getting a bilingual job. My boss has been recycling this joke so badly that our team has stopped laughing long time ago.

Someone Trying to Learn Spanish December 30, 2006

Posted by Edwin in Humour, Spanish.
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Language classes could bore you to death … unless you have a classmate like this one:

It would be a fun class, but I guess you won’t learn much.

An Italian Brand December 27, 2006

Posted by Edwin in Humour, Italian.
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For some people, Christmas = shopping.
For some merchants, Christmas = give me all your money!

I remember a story related to shopping. It is a true story.

It happened back in the time when I was still in university. One Easter holiday, I and a few friends decided to make a trip to Italy. Somehow, another friend of ours wanted to tag along. She did not hang around with us that much, but she showed a great interest in joining our trip. It turned out that she wanted to go there for solely one purpose – shopping!

During the trip, we noticed our friend’s lack of interest while visiting Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice. Finally, we arrived in Milan. This was when she suddenly came back to life. This was where she was to start her trip.

Then she confessed that she had been puzzling during the past few days. She was familiar with a lot of Italian brands but there was one brand she admitted that she had never heard of. It appeared in the stores all over Italy.

I asked her to spell out the brand name, and she replied, ‘S..A..L..D..I’.