Is it necessary to “standardize” the translation of Chinese dish names?

Today I saw a pieced of news titled “Strange translation for a Chinese dish – ants climbing trees”.

I found it’s about a team called “woodpecker” consisted of Chinese college students from Hangzhou, who visited local restaurants to look for strange translations of Chinese dishes. They found such a dish name called “ants climbing trees” and thus thought it’s a machine translation.

I can hardly agree that it’s a machine translation, because it wouldn’t be translated in such a brief and dynamic way, it would probably be like “Ants climb up trees”.

It reminds me of my personal experience when seeing this dish name in a Chinese restaurant a dozen years ago, I was frightened until later I got to know that it’s just “ground meat and bean vermicelli”.

So the original name of “ants climbing trees” is very vivid and attractive, even many of we Chinese cannot understand it. But that’s not bad. Overseas tourists would be pleasant to see such literal translations.

The team advised the restaurant to change the current translation to “vermicelli with Spicy Minced Pork”, then why don’t they change the Chinese name to a plain one too?

Instead, I think the original English name is very good, while the suggested name is very bad.

So, college students are usually not experienced and good at translation, even though they are English majors.

In recent years, Chinese authorities are trying to “regulate” names of some Chinese dishes, but since China is a market economy, why bother specifying dish names for restaurants, who should have their own freedom.

This is like as a Chinese translation company, we face different style guides from different clients, there is no necessity for them to abide to any common standards, and so are the Chinese resturants.


Author: Jinray Translations Company

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