... some other issues persist. Via a Chinese friend, a sign at Beijing's main airport:
If you know any Chinese, you understand how an auto-translate system could garble what the sign means to say --"Please stand behind the 1-meter line" -- into "rice-flour noodle." (Main problem: the character 米, mi, means "rice" but is also used as an abbreviation for "meter." More on the challenge of Chinese homonyms in this great book.) The more intriguing question is, as ever, why big Chinese organizations entrust translation, for sites where foreigners are sure to see the results, to fallible computerized systems without having a native speaker ever take a look. For a few other samples, check here. My friend in China theorizes: "I guess all the public sign translations in this country are done by lazy bureaucrats, with the help of Google Translate." It will be sad when these finally go away.
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James Fallows is a staff writer for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. He and his wife, Deborah Fallows, are the authors of the new book Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, which has been a New York Times best seller and is the basis of a forthcoming HBO documentary.