Sure, Pizza Hut, but do you English?

Spend enough time abroad, and eventually you’ll have the strange experience of running into a familiar brand from back home doing something you’d never expect, since the overseas arm is locally managed. Many times, the results are awesome, such as frozen green tea dessert drinks at KFC, cocktails at Burger King, or chocolate-covered fries at McDonald’s branches in Japan.

Still, sometimes the fact that no one from the home-country headquarters is keeping too close an eye on things can lead to a bit of embarrassment. For example, it looks like no one bothered to proofread the English text in this recent pamphlet for Pizza Hut in Japan.

As shared by Japanese Twitter user Kazuto Suzuki, Pizza Hut has apparently been handing out dual-language pamphlets that ask the garbled question “Don’t you hungry?” and follow up with the puzzling choice of “at that time,PizzaHut!”

When weird English like this rears its head, there’s often an explanation for it (as we’ve looked at before), so let’s figure out which exact muscles Pizza Hut had to flex incorrectly to get so tongue-tied.

If you look up “hungry” in an English/Japanese dictionary, it’ll tell you that “onaka ga suku” is the Japanese equivalent, and that’s completely correct, as far as the meaning goes. The pitfall, though, is that “onaka ga suku” literally means “(my/your) stomach is empty,” and making things trickier is that suku” isn’t just the adjective “empty,” but a complete-package verb that means “be empty.”

So if you were a Japanese copywriter with only a limited command of the English language, but you know that you’re supposed to use “do” for questions with verbs, you might end up with “Do you hungry?” instead of “Are you hungry?”

Moving to the backside of the pamphlet, “at that time,PizzaHut!” is a pretty good translation of its accompanying Japanese text, “Sonna toki ha Pizza Hut!

At least as far as vocabulary and grammar goes. Not sure why “at” isn’t capitalized, there’s no space after the comma, or what the reason is for rendering “PizzaHut” all as one word like it’s RocketNews24 or something.

The problem here is that Japanese is a much more contextual language than English. With the question on the front of the pamphlet already establishing the topic of the conversation as the reader’s level of hunger, in Japanese there’s no need to say “If you are, then you should call Pizza Hut and order a pizza.” As a matter of fact, saying anything more than “Sonna toki ha Pizza Hut” would, in Japanese, end up sounding wordy and lose a lot of the snappiness the ad is going for.

Still, it’s surprising that Pizza Hut, being as large a company as it is, didn’t assign someone to check the quality of the English text and propose a much more natural-sounding English version, like “Hungry? Then it’s time for Pizza Hut!” Then again, considering that Pizza Hut is part of the Yum! Brands conglomerate, which also owns Taco Bell (which rolled into Japan last year touting its delicious “Supreme Court Beef” tacos), maybe we should have expected linguistics to be pretty low on the list of priorities.

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he can tell you why Engrish happens but has no idea how to bake a pizza.

Source: Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@KS_1013 (edited by RocketNews24)