Advertising and Marketing

Continental can't speak Chinese

continental head cold.jpg

Steven Schwankert was passing through Newark's Liberty International Airport where he took the photo on the left, an ad for Continental Airlines. The ad shows different translations for "my head is cold", linked to different Continental destinations. This apparently proves that Continental can speak any language and is hip and international.

But take a closer look at the Chinese translation for Beijing:


Aside from the fact that Beijing is represented by the type of conical hat no one has ever worn in northern China, the translation is rendered as "My hair is cold"!

As Schwankert puts it, "you would have thought that by now, Continental would have made enough from its Newark-Beijing route to get someone in its Beijing office to do a proper translation."

UPDATE: Perhaps they can speak Chinese after all; a commenter points out that the phrase can be read as wo de tou faleng rather than wo de toufa leng, which is perhaps not a common usage, but is not incorrect...

Also worth noting: the first result returned on a Baidu search for the string 'tou fa leng' is this: How to use Chinese medicine to cure a cold penis head.

There are currently 9 Comments for Continental can't speak Chinese.

Comments on Continental can't speak Chinese

And you would think that there are enough native speakers in China to mean that there wouldn't be a group devoted to bad Chinglish signs on Facebook. So it goes both ways, right?

Actually, isn't "faliang" the actual phrase there, and not "toufa"?

In that case the translation is correct.

The translation is correct. It's just a bit confusing. 我的脑袋发冷 is a better translation.

发冷: fālěng v.o. feel cold/chilly

我的头很冷 would be more correct, tho.

I think the translation is correct and appropriate. "发" is a pretty standard way to describe conditions such as "发冷","发热","发烧". Re: the previous comments, "脑袋" is fairly colloquial and therefore not suitable here, and "很冷" only describes one condition, i.e. very cold.

I would guess that most people who read 我的头发冷 would think that it meant "My hair is cold". "My head is cold" is correct, but only when someone points it out that 我的头发冷 could mean "my head is cold" does it become apparent.

It's not good to have a sentence that can be understood in 2 ways on an ad but as this is for the benefit of Americans mostly, it does not make too much of a difference. I think the cultural connotation as shown in the Baidu search is more of an issue, as is the choice of hats which gives a very wrong idea of Beijing (how about a Mao cap?).

um. do chinese men commonly suffer from "cold penis head"? and how is it that 六味地黄丸 cures the problem?

Note that in Hong Kong or Taiwan there would be no confusion as among full form characters the 'fa' is written differently in toufa and faliang. I guess this is ad was originally written for Taiwan or HK, and then just switched into simplified characters for the mainland. (Which also explains that hat that you say they don't wear in Beijing.)
Normally such confusions are unlikely when switching from full to simple form characters (although the can more occur more frequently in the other direction), so I'd say Continental is just a bit unlucky here.

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