Beyond Words - Language Blog

Translation Fail: A Chinese Scarlet Letter

The Taipei Times reported today that officials from China’s National Museum of Prehistory issued an apology for a mistranslation in a publication on Aborigines.

The book, Bridging Taiwan with Austronesia, wrongly referred to Aborigines’ facial tattoos as a symbol of “adultery” when in fact such tattoos represent passage into adulthood.

Here is an excerpt from the official apology:

“The translator made a very serious mistake. We regret the error. We apologize to Aborigines,” Chang said during a question-and-answer session with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) and Yu John-dow (余政道).