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August 12, 2011

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Butchered translations don't halt the mail

THE Chinese translation "water pumping house's barrel maintenance room" on a letter from abroad has amused PricewaterhouseCoopers employees and inspired locals' interest in the delivery of overseas mail written in English.

A PwC employee received a letter earlier this week with the translation that had the wrong company name, wrong road name and wrong district name. He uploaded the picture of the letter on his microblog on, which soon attracted hundreds of comments.

"I must pay tribute to the postman," said the employee who identified himself as Benniwu. "It's hard to understand how the postman found the firm with the misleading Chinese address."

Many PwC workers joked online that they are barrel makers working in a water room and praised the postman as a genius. The post office on Longmen Road is responsible for getting letters to the firm.

"Postmen always read the English address to deliver the mails," said He Chengqi, director of the post office. "They never completely rely on the Chinese translation. It's just a reference."

In common practice, the Shanghai Post Bureau staff translate the English addresses into Chinese at the first reception point before sending it to community post offices.

Even with a wrong address, community postal workers will check their database, collected from English-language newspaper subscription information and postal delivery records going back years, to make sure mail is going to the right place.

Some foreign senders omit the building number or the room name. Sometimes foreign senders write the address in both English and Chinese but the Chinese contains mistakes.


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