Chinese restaurant called TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR

I'm not sure what Chinese string this restaurateur fed to the translation software used to to generate the giant sign hanging over the entrance, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't: TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR. Ah, the special problems of translations into other alphabets. Link (Thanks, Mark!)

Update: In the comments, Insect Hooves adds, "OM NOM NOM. I love their Segfault Chicken. And their Short Stack Overflow is to die for. Ooooh, and their 404 Not Pound Cake (foghorn)"


  1. God damn that’s absurdly fucking funny.
    I love anyone that will go out buy a huge banner and put it up without even checking that it’s nearly correct let alone spelt correctly.

  2. OM NOM NOM. I love their Segfault Chicken. And their Short Stack Overflow is to die for. Ooooh, and their 404 Not Pound Cake (foghorn) ^_^.

  3. #1: More common than you think! Even when it’s in your language and the sign is for your business.

    As a former purveyor / designer of large displays like this… the amount of client-proofed-approved-printed fuckups were atronomical.

    You’d think you’d notice that your business name had one too many letters or your phone number was wrong. But no.

    And yes, I had instances where clients were happy just to accept my rushed-to-pre-proof Google translation (or even better: AltaVista’s BabelFish) without actually running it by someone familiar with the language. I wish I knew some of the fuckups that came out of those jobs.

  4. Maybe that is the correct name. Can anybody read the Chinese part? They might have problems naming their website though.

  5. We lived in Beijing for a year. Our local supermarket had a sign on one aisle for “Fuck Goods”…

    The problem there is that in Simplified Chinese a word for ‘dry’ and an all-purpose ‘to do’ word are mapped to the same character. You can ‘do’ someone in Chinese the same as you can in English and it’s just as crass a way of saying it, but for some reason auto-translation software seems to like that usage.

  6. I can’t help but wonder if there’s someone walking around with a similar message tattooed on themselves in Chinese ideograms… The moral is: never try to put across a message in a language you don’t understand, at least not without checking with a person familiar with that language first.

  7. The Beiing Speaks Foreign Languages program has been trying to eliminate poorly translated signs all over the city before the Olympics. In Singapore, the Speak Good English Movement is trying to eradicate Singlish (a mix of English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin and commonly spoken), and replace it with British colloquialisms, for example:
    Wrong: Die, Die must finish. (Singlish)
    Right: We must finish this by hook or by crook. (English?)

  8. This happens everywhere, in Asia (Japan & China) especially.

    A large part of the problem is like Aeon said- it’s the people who program tranlator software improperly or too narrowly, and secondly (most important), the people going with the spelling DON’T PROOFREAD. Often, they just don’t have access to a foreign speaking person to double check it!

    There are some, though, who put things like this into English (for example) because it just “looks cool! it’s foreign!”, just like the dolts in the west who get kanji tattoos with ridiculous meanings- “it looks cool!”. For many people, that’s all they want. They aren’t worried so much about seeing someone call them on it.

    The spell check thing is weird though. For example, I speak Japanese, fairly well. I sometimes give my students the spelling of a word, write it ON THE BOARD, say “this is how you spell —“, and 5 minutes later, I still see them writing something not even close. They have the spelling of words right in front of them on paper, copying a sentence, and they still get it wrong. Maybe it’s a cultural thing to ignore? Drives me nuts!

    1. No proofreading? The same thing seems to happen all over the world. Throughout the former Soviet Union the abbreviation ‘str.’ (German for strasse, or street) is always used since people here OBVIOUSLY know English better than native speakers. In a Chinese restaurant in Kiev run by Ukrainians one menu item said, in English, “Chicken fried in five Chinese people.” Sounded tasty but I just couldn’t deal with the waste of human resources just to cook some chicken!

  9. Probably intentional. Marketing ploy. Trying to be hip and trendy. Brilliant. Yes, #5, time for a franchise.

  10. #9 Bubbleman: As pointed out by #4 Noah, the Chinese part 餐厅 literally means “dining hall”. It’s also commonly used to mean “restaurant”. Not the most imaginative name for a restaurant, but at least the translation was wrong and the Chinese name isn’t really TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR… thank goodness!

    #12 Travelina: As a Singaporean, and speaking for most Singaporeans (making an educated guess here, but I think most share this view), I have to say it really is a shame that the government is working to eradicate Singlish. In official and business use, fair enough, but the movement attempts to stomp out its use at an informal spoken level and on local TV shows as well, which is really ridiculous. :/

  11. Knowing somebody with the actual knowledge of the language not necessarily helps. I knew an American who decided that he wanted a T-shirt with a Russian inscription. He lived in Brooklyn, so he simply went to the first Russian shop he encountered in the Coney Island area and asked a salesperson to write down some cool Russian slogan for him. Then, he neatly designed the words that they wrote for him, and made himself a T-shirt. I saw it. It read,
    (I am a Silly American)

  12. Some signs I saw in China last month:

    “Forbidden to use mobile phone when thunderstorm” (seen at the Great Wall)

    “FU Massage”
    (we all know what happens there!)

    “Employee Retiring: The visitor no entry”
    (Employee break room)

  13. What probably happened here is that when they entered the characters for translation and hit the translate button there was an issue with the translation software. So the resulting error message was ‘TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR’ instead of the requested translation – classic.

  14. Like #11 says, this seems just like the flipside of people getting Chinese character tattoos that are supposed to say “Peace thru Strength” but really says something like “I want to massage your grandmother.”

  15. #7: One more CPubeA, from the state of Colorado: HOUSE BILL 03-1197

    (B) At the request of either the client of the certified public accountant or certified pubic accounting firm or the certified public accountant or certified pubic accounting firm subject to the subpoena pursuant to this subparagraph (IV)

    I hope that was an OCR error, because it passed

    H.B. 03-1197 State board of accountancy – accountant-client privilege – attest function – exceptions. …
    APPROVED by Governor April 29, 2003 EFFECTIVE August 6, 2003

    Okay, I’m done searching now.

  16. At restaurants, you have a server, who is your waitron; and occasionally they make an error. When the server does not understand your language you may get a translation error. Translation server error could result in the delivery of dishes you did not order!

  17. @#24 The Chinese translation of Translation server error is:


    I suggest you get the tattoo immediately rather than wait as common sense may yet get the better of you.

  18. My local Chinese place offers HuMan Chicken. When I order it I always ask for “HuMan Chicken”.

  19. Although this is an extreme example, it is quite common in China. And, after more than ten years here it isn’t getting any better.

  20. Some canned beans sold in Yugoslavia about 35 years ago claimed they were “for immediate consummation”. I did not dare try.

  21. This reminds me of the name of the factory close to my father’s factory in New Delhi, India. I did a double take when I first saw the name “psycho
    engineering”. Nobody really knew the meaning of the word and they all pronounced it pyko.

  22. In the early ninties I was living in Taipei, and in one of the main shopping areas, there was a woman’s clothing store called “Clitoria”. I kid you not…

  23. >#14,
    Hey, don’t mix up Japan and China as if they were in the same league.

    I’ve been living in Japan for over ten years, but I’ve never seen such an another planet level’s mistake. Once you live in both countries, you’ll know how different they are – one of the most advanced countries and a developing country…
    Your case has nothing to do with cultural thing, but I believe you just work with students in the English beginners class.

  24. No no no. “TRANSLATE SERVER ERROR” just means “The person serving you will have no idea what you are saying to them.”


  25. A local Chinese restaurant where I live has a typographical and spellcheck error on its menu resulting in a dish called “beef in empirical sauce”. What did it taste like you might ask? Well, you’ll just have to try it and find out.

  26. Westfield and West Springfield, Mass. have a large Russian speaking population. Barely intelligible Russian signs are everywhere. Some examples:

    On the express checkout line in Wallmart:

    “12 points (manufactured items) or fewer”

    In an apartment building corridor there was something like this:

    “In accord with the rule department of the fire West Springfield it is forbidden to leave coaches in the corridors.”

    These are clearly the produce of automatic translation software. Such programs have a hard enough time with well-written grammatical English. When fed somewhat ungrammatical and abbreviated they tend to produce a result so convoluted and obfuscated that it can be understood only by translating it back into English.

    For example, the “12 points” sign in Walmart is unintelligible not only because it doesn’t translate “items” intellibly, but because the original English version “12 items or less” is too abbreviated. A Russian might ask: “Well, what about them?” The software would likely produce something much more inteligible if asked to translate: “This register is for customers buying 12 items or fewer”.

  27. This is the Chinese name of the “Restaurant”


  28. As a former purveyor / designer of large displays like this… the amount of client-proofed-approved-printed fuckups were atronomical.

  29. I knew of a guy who had chinese characters tattooed on the back of his neck. It turns out they said “small car”

  30. In Germany I saw a van which had “Bad Design” on the side. Bad is German for bath… Walruzoar

  31. My favorite sign ever, in a hotel in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

    “You know that the chambers are paid before sleeping. Only the cashier girl under herself responsibility can allow the payment. Please get ahead of your depart before 3 hours and seek if you have forgotten nothing.”

  32. lol to be honest if I was going to translate text that would go public, I’d just use a translation company to ensure the translation read perfectly in the target language. They use language professionals instead of automated machines in order to prevent careless translation errors such as the one above.

  33. The chinese possibly don’t know that the english translation was wrong. But be honest: now we all now that the Dining hall exists…

Comments are closed.