over the years, i'm sure we've all come across hilarious stories and jokes about how very wrong conversations can end up when going from mandarin to cantonese and cantonese to mandarin. this is my favourite story (a true one!):
a beijing tour guide who can speak passable cantonese has just picked up a group of hong kong tourists. she begins the bus tour with this little speech:
"我叫胡麗珍. 我在北京國際機場接了你們. 我們現在去去看石窟. 大的石窟有幾個洞; 小的石窟有很多洞. my name is hu lizhen. i've just picked you up from the beijing international airport. we're currently on our way to see some grottoes. the big grotto has a few caverns; the little one has many."
sadly, her cantonese wasn't as great as she thought, so this is what the tourists heard:
"我叫狐狸精. 我在北京國際雞場(妓院)接了你們. 我們現在去去看屎忽(屁股). 大的屎忽(屁股)有幾個窿; 小的屎忽(屁股)有很多個窿. my name is slut (foxy spirit). i've just picked you up from the beijing international brothel. we're currently on our way to see some asses. the big ass has a few holes; the little one has many."
ok, your turn. (and chefying, now you know why i'm not turned off by bathroom humour.)
had to delve into my memories and choose the funniest canto-to-mandarin mishap. here's my favourite (also a true story):
a canto-speaking realtor is speaking to a group of potential investors from taiwan in toronto. this was during the real estate boom of the early 1990s. he has a translator with him, but he decides that his mandarin is good enough, so he just wings it. it's 2:00 in the afternoon, a bright summer's day, so naturally, most of his audience is nodding off after a series of speeches, of which his is not the first. so, he tells the mostly inattentive audience:
"多倫多最嚴重的問題還是住的問題! the biggest issue torontonians face is the problem of real estate!"
of course, because his mandarin really isn't that great, his audience hears:
"多倫多最嚴重的問題還是豬的問題! the biggest issue torontonians face is the problem of pigs!"
needless to say, his audience roars with laughter. his translator is laughing so hard that she can't even reply when he demands to know what's so funny.
the light barge traverses endless mountains