Since I’m aiming to become a translator someday, I’m interested in cases of translation gone wrong.
The other day, I went to a market / mall with indoor shops and outdoor eating spaces. I staked out a table while a friend went to buy food and spotted the following sign on our table:
My eye went to the English bit, and needless to say, I was confused. However, my friend and I both had coats with hoods, so I figured we were ok.
Later, upon consulting the Japanese, I realized the source of the confusion: フードコート. Japanese doesn’t have the sound “hoo”, or rather the single sound “foo” as in Fuji is somewhere between how “foo” and “hoo” are pronounced in English. For any linguists out there, the relevant phoneme in Japanese ɸɯ, and English fu and hu don’t exist.
Also, when English words are represented in Japanese, American/Irish/etc. hard “r”s are often omitted. So car is written in a way that makes it pronounced kah, party is pah-ty, etc.
So, it turns out that both hood coat and food court can be transliterated as フードコート (f/hoodo cohto). Ah ha. So the seats were reserved for people eating food purchased at the shops’ food court. No outside food allowed.
I’m still a bit confused by the “prohibited on board” wording, but my guess is that the phrase was copied from some other setting where food or something else is prohibited on some mode of transportation. Regardless, it gave us a little giggle.
Alas, I can’t comment on the accuracy of the Chinese and Korean translations.