You Think Translation in Taiwan is Bad?

I’ve just had an amazing experience with a Dublin “translation agency”.

It all started with the requirement from the Irish Ministry of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform about getting a birth certificate translated in connection with an application for Irish Nationality.

First, they stipulate it must be translated by “a recognised translation agency in the State”. So I ring them up for a list of recognised agencies. They don’t have one. Could they recommend one ? Try the Yellow Pages, they suggest. How would I know it was recognised ? “They should be able to tell you” came the response. Right, so I’ll just ask them if they recognise themselves then. Fair enough. (Hah! You thought PRC or Taiwanese bureacracy was the worst !)

Off goes the birth certificate to what I would have thought would be one of the best places to get a translation done (no point in naming it - pm me if you really must know), “translated for the Dept of Foreign Affairs” and everything, they’ll be great, sure it’s only a birth certificate.

87 Euros later back comes a sheet of blank A4 photocopier paper with some English on it and a little childish embossed mark bearing the name of the agency. Now call me naiive, but I would have expected the original to be somehow referenced in the translation, at best by attachment of an apostille, at least by either gluing the original on or putting a stamp or reference number on both sheets. But hey, I would have expected a date and headed notepaper or certification, that’s how incredibly picky I am about my legal translations. What I’m looking at now could be anything, translated by anybody, sure no-one can read the original anyway. I could give them a Chinese bus pass and say that’s the original document.

So, a few gems from my US$87 translation of the 144 character document (10 of which weren’t even translated at all!):

Character 路 translated as “Street”, in address character “zhao” mistaken for “bei”

黃浦中心醫院 translated as “Shanghai Zhongxin Hospital”

不作為申報戶口用 not translated at all, simply omitted

接生單位 (蓋章)translated as “Place of Delivery (Seal)” then the seal is mistranslated omitting the name of the hospital (I am not that bothered about “place of delivery”, I would have preferred “Midwifery Unit” or even better “Maternity Unit” but the meaning isn’t destroyed altogether so alright…)

The translator “stands over it”. I wouldn’t mind standing over him. Anyway, we’ve agreed that I don’t pay him and he gets his pathetic attempt at translation back.

I look at this bald sheet of paper with this gibberish on it (address wrong, name of hospital wrong) and I think I have spent 11 years slaving away at this Chinese shit, only to have some little wanker who can’t tell the difference between the most basic Gubo and Palanka words tell me he “stands over” this. What a chancer. What an absolute fraud. The agency said I can send them my version and they might certify it if he agrees. I told the agency I didn’t want to get into a battle of credentials and the matter was closed. “Certify” !!! “CERTIFY???” AAAAAAAAAArgh! I have plenty of toilet paper, thank you. Lovely soft stuff.

So, off to find another agency. This crowd of pretenders were the most expensive anyway. But this time I’ll send them my translation and get them to put their wee rubber stamp on it. Isn’t it great that I have to do their work for them ? I’ll bet you ?0 too that it was a Chinese bloke who did the translation. What’s rule number one in translation ?

I should have set up a “translation agency” years ago, look how much I could have made “certifying” shite translations. My opinion of the translation industry is currently very very low. Could some proper translators out there restore my confidence ? Glossika need not reply.

Likewise an Australian experience:

A friend of mine let his Australian drivers licence lapse in his protracted stay in Taiwan but had both a Taiwanese and Taiwan issued international drivers licence. He wandered back to Oz and went in to apply to renew his licence, “sorry sir, but you’ve let it lapse too long and will have to re-sit the test.” My friend pulls out his Taiwan international licence and asks if this could in any way curtail this silly measure. Unfortunately the name on the licence is his Chinese name, the same as is on his Taiwan drivers licence. “I see, sir. Well we’ll have to have it translated.” “What translated?” enquires said friend pointing to the fact the international licence has an English section. “Your name.” “But there’s no point. It doesn’t mean anything.” “Well I’m sure you underestimate the government translation service sir.” “Really” says friend, himself having worked here for a considerable time as a translator. “What’s the damage and how long will it take?” That’d be US$90 and 6 weeks if you would sir." “But its just three *#@ing characters???” “Here, I’ll write it down for you now!” “Has to be certified I’m afraid…”

Needless to say he sat the test.


Well I translated my better half’s drivers license myself. Got a translator I knew to stamp it.

This is better: When we applied for Danish residency for my wife, We got her hukou mingbu translated by a Taiwanese agency. As far as I cound see, they did a decent - but pricey - job out of it. BUT when we gave it to the Trade Office here, they looked baffled at us and said that me translating it would have been more than enough…

Gosh, I do birth certs with a nice, fancy, wordy company certification saying that I confirm that I’m qualified, all for just US$40 (which is my minimum charge, or it would be less). Always has stood up in the States for anything and everything. Heck, I’m even a native speaker of English…

Hexuan, the agency’s response “if the translator thinks its OK” reminds me of a non-dialogue I’ve been dragged into on another forum, where a couple of Chinese translators (?) are arguing that they have every bit as good a sense for English usage as any educated native English speaker. (Oh, yeah, he used the word “prithee” in his posting. Obviously the guy has a much finer grasp of English nuance than I do – I didn’t manage to work that one in.)

For the terminally curious with too much free time: … 34&start=0

I don’t know how you put up with Taiwanese people lecturing you about English. It is one thing that I find utterly incredible and incomprehensible. There seems to be a culture of supreme arrogance amongst Chinese translators. Many of the times I have been absolutely lost for words, have been when presented with an obvious mistranslation of a straightforward word, and yet the translator insists it is right. I then have to defer, because the translator has conferred upon himself this title of “professional translator”. However, a quick look around Taiwan is all that is necessary to confirm for me that the Taiwanese couldn’t give a damn about the accuracy of the Englsih they so freely plaster over everything. I am delighted to see the rise of nonsense Chinese in the West. Give them a taste of their own medicine.

Anyway, I’m off to pay USD100 for the translation of a 144 character birth certificiate. But this time I am submitting my own translation and have told the agency that if there is any significant deviation to contact me first. I am amazed that I have to do this. It would be a totally impractical propostition for a lengthy document.