No wonder Chinese banks are so profitable.

I’ve spent more of my life than I should admit devoted to the Chinese recycling trade and its odd and amazing offshoots. Radioactive X-ray machine processing? Seen it! Diaper recycling? Heard of it! The Big Dumb Recycling Machine? Documented it! But before Monday night, and a last minute search for an ATM, I’d never seen one of these:


A more literal translation would read “Funds Deposit-Withdrawal Integrated Machine.” A more pleasing one might read “Deposit-Withdrawal Automated Teller.” Or, heck, “Deposit-Withdrawal ATM.” Generally, I’m not big on Chinglish-related blog posts, but I offer this one because the owner of this machine, and the mis-translated sign, is ICBC [Industrial & Commercial Bank of China], the world’s most valuable bank by market capitalization. Surely, they can afford a (better?) translator [Fallows has much more to say on the subject of Chinese organizations and their unwillingness to seek decent translation]? And if that’s not good enough justification for the post, well: most of this blog’s readers in the global recycling industry (and believe me, there’s a whole bunch) haven’t yet had a chance to enjoy these signs.

I should note: Kenneth Tan of Shanghaiist posted an image of a cash recycling machine in his neighborhood back in November, and quickly received several grumpy comments suggesting that these machines, and translations, had been standard for years, now (please, don’t). Not sure how I missed them (and Kenneth’s November post), but there you go: years worth of bad translations from the world’s largest financial institutions.

[Addendum: For an alternative view on cash recycling, see here.]

6 thoughts on “No wonder Chinese banks are so profitable.

  1. fp – No doubt you’re right. But 95% of my readers are outside of China, and I’d bet that 99% of them haven’t seen them.

  2. OK—I’ve wondered what they really were, and I’m inside China. At a few banks I’ve seen, only one out of a bank of four machines would have this particular label.

  3. Oh joy! Thank you. And so what if these signs have been around for years. I’ve lived here for ten years and never seen one – probably because I never go to banks unless it is absolutely, completely and utterly unavoidable. I had no idea what I was missing.

  4. There are far more horrible translations other than this one in China.and they are not meant for the reading by neither local Chinese nor foreign travellers.

    People just think English letters are chic, doesn’t matter how they knock them together

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