Mistranslation - Sweat and Sour Pork

Sometimes Words That Sound Alike Can Have Different Meanings

The Chinese language is one of the hardest languages to translate into the English language. Given the disparity in the cultures, it is easy to see the reason behind the difficulty in translations. One of the major problems when translating from Chinese to English would be the different usage of syntaxes. Because of this, the meaning would change, should the proper syntax required for a language is not be followed. More often than not, should the translator fail to take the proper sentence structure into consideration, the actual meaning of the entire phrase can get altered altogether.

Another issue when translating from Chinese to English would be the evident lexical gap. There are some words and even concepts that are quite unique to the Chinese language, as a reflection of the Chinese culture and ideals. Because of that, it becomes difficult to translate some Chinese words into the English language, especially when dealing with Chinese idioms or proverbs.

But in this particular translation, the main problem fell on the misspelled word. One of the reasons behind this would be due to the different language systems of the English and Chinese language. Both languages have similar words that sound alike but have actually different meanings. As the Chinese language makes use of characters, each character would have a separate meaning. However when translated into English, it becomes a problem as the English language makes use of letters.

With just a slight change in the spelling, the whole word gets another meaning, as seen in “SWEAT” which should have been “SWEET.” One possible reason for this mistake could also be attributed to the fact that the Chinese language puts a lot of emphasis on sound and intonation. Similar sounding words or characters carry different meanings, based on the intonation and pronunciation. So the translator could have just based the translation on a word that sounds like SWEET.

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