Mistranslation of deformed

“Handicapped” Mistranslated to “Deformed” Can be Insulting

It does not take a person to know how to read Chinese, or to be handicapped to feel insulted by this sign. Instead of “Handicapped Person,” a toilet sign was written as “Deformed Person.”

This may be one literal translation from the original, and it may also be the same case for a lot of other languages. However, the term “handicapped person” gained usage due to growing sensitivities to the plight and problems of those who are not mobile enough. Being mobility challenged is hard enough, without having to endure the indignities or seeming slights and insults of a mistranslation.

The evolution of the language, or the meaning and use of “handicapped” has not caught up with the rest of the world, even if facilities are being made more handicapped-friendly.

Persons who had to use crutches or a wheelchair, and even pregnant women, and the elderly, have a hard time moving and the use of special facilities exclusively for their use is very much appreciated. These can be anything from special parking close to the entrance of a mall or shop, or for individual toilets built especially to allow wheelchairs inside.

Strictly speaking, the handicapped do not necessarily have a deformity. Besides, calling any person “deformed” or “retarded” is a rudeness which society is better without.

What is noticeable is that the sign is posted on a wooden door, and on its own is an elegant metallic embossed sign. This is a reputable establishment, which obviously caters to foreigners in China. It is a pity that the management did not take due care in checking out their signs. A simple query, and help from someone who knows English would have resolved the issue. On the other hand, since this looks like an expensive sign, the sign makers should have taken the time to do a proper translation. There are a lot of foreigners in China working in various capacities, and a majority of them have taken to working there specifically because of their language skills. They know Chinese and another language besides English. Making use of their expertise for this matter is not too much to ask.

Image credit – via Pinterest

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