Crash-worthy literature

Toys from China are making a circus out of the English language


Most people can appreciate the value in one country trading with another. Countries that trade with each other can expect reciprocity.

But to make sure trading doesn’t go awry, every country holds its importers to certain standards. For example, in order to sell food in Canada, it’s required that the product’s package contains accurate nutrition information.

One country which has an affordable labour force, China, is able to provide basic manufactured goods at some of the most competitive prices in the world. Because manufacturing employees in China are a dime a dozen, and since few of them are well-versed in the English language, the potential exists for defective goods to cross into Canada. And that potential has been achieved.

There is a locally owned shop in Invermere that has imported toys, among other products, from China. One of the toys at the store stickered “Made in China” was a remote-control helicopter. Admittedly, its packaging was visually appealing – vibrant colours, modern design, and a shot of the chopper in action drew my attention towards the box. As I itched to learn more (So what if I’m a grown adult looking at toys?), I turned the box over to read about the chopper, and was treated to a word salad.

It begins well enough with, “The structure of this helicopter is quite precise,” but doesn’t take long to run off the rails. “It has high efficient gear slowdown system covering super strong crash worthy propeller and tailor-made ferromagnetic motor, which could ensure it processing enough force and it is able to fly safe with a long time.”

Perhaps the sentence is part of a game, where it’s supposed to be rearranged into something coherent? But I doubt it – there was no mention of reading or writing components as part of the product. And each time it’s read, the text seems to hold less meaning than the time before.

I don’t think that this debauchery of the English language was intentional. Rather, I have a hunch that the Chinese company employs a hack technical writer, and a useless proofreader.

Teachers do well in teaching students their literacy skills. But let’s face it – anything written on a toy’s packaging is going to intrigue a child more than a lesson at school. If the young owner of one of these choppers considers the description as concise and fluent English, it could counteract anything they’ve learned in school.

China wouldn’t be out of line to reject any Canadian exports that can’t coherently communicate in Mandarin. Why does Canada allow gibberish to pass as English on our imports?

Consumers can’t expect Chinese, or any international business people, to improve the quality of their products if we continue supporting them. Next time you need to buy something cheap that was made in a country with lax human rights, please support brands with fluent word combinations.