kake: The word "菜單" (Chinese for "menu") in various shades of purple. (菜單)
[personal profile] kake
Image description follows.

[Image: A printed sheet of paper with three columns containing names of Chinese dishes: first in Chinese characters, then in pinyin, then in English. Some of the Chinese characters are missing, replaced by question marks to indicate that I couldn't figure them out. Some of the English translations are followed by question marks to indicate that they're tentative.]

OK, so I've taken a couple of weeks to get going again since I mentioned that I'm cutting back to posting just once a week, but here goes with the new regime. I'll probably aim to post mid-week, Tuesday or Wednesday.

Today's concept is the restaurant cheat-sheet, an example of which is pictured above. This is how I deal with ordering from a Chinese-only menu when I've organised a meal out with a group of people who don't read any Chinese. I acquire the menu in advance, then transcribe it, attempt to translate it, print off a few copies of my translation, and bring them along with me on the evening. Then we can all take a look at the menu and see what looks interesting.

As can be seen above, my translations are often incomplete (though this is a fairly difficult menu in comparison to most I've seen in London). It also obviously doesn't help with restaurants where I've not been able to see the menu in advance. But it's a technique I've found quite helpful, so I thought I'd share it.

As for the amount of work involved; yes, there is some, but it's work that's useful in more than one way. I've posted before about the importance of daily practice. One of the things I try to do every day is a little bit of transcribing, and even with just five minutes spent on this every day, the task is soon done.

If you have any questions or corrections, please leave a comment (here's how) and let me know (or email me at kake@earth.li). See my introductory post to the Chinese menu project for what these posts are all about.

Date: 2011-10-18 09:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thenaturalstone.blogspot.com
Great stuff! I just put the characters, pinyin and english in Anki cards and review them there. I'm only just starting to try to remember the pinyin. I wish I'd started earlier.

I recognise a few similarities between this and Chinese-only sections of my local restaurant menu.

風味 appears in the heading 大排檔風味, which I have translated as Local style street food. This section also has several dishes of large intestines (大腸).

We also have 豬肚 (pig stomach) on the menu, but I've not tried that yet.

Chinese menus

Date: 2011-11-02 03:52 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hi there! I found your site while searching for "learn to read Chinese menus". I'm a Canadian-born Chinese and my parents speak Cantonese. However, I'm barely fluent in casual conversation and pretty much illiterate. So I've also been trying to learn to read Chinese, starting off with the most practical: Chinese menus!

Do you have any Chinese friends? It would be much easier to help you with pronunciation and translation?

As for the missing characters in your transcription, I found that (if you have one, I don't) on iPads and iPhones, you have the option of turning on language keyboards. You can choose to handwrite characters as well, so if you know the correct order of strokes, it will convert your handwritten character to the computerized version. It seemed pretty useful to me when I was trying to transcribe menus too.


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