The distinguished German writing instrument manufacturer, Staedtler, lavished 19 (!) languages on the box for its Mars® Lumograph® 100 pencils.
(Click on the images for larger versions.)
Peculiarly, Chinese (ZHONG1WEN2 中文) is awarded two versions of the product description:
Now, we must ask: why does "Chinese" merit two versions of instructions on one German pencil box? It would be one thing if it were just a matter of "simplified" versus "traditional / complicated" characters used to write the same language (presumably Modern Standard Mandarin). Such, however, is not the case here. Instead, the first version, written in traditional / complicated characters, is translated quite differently from the second version, which appears in simplified characters. Even if you cannot read "Chinese," it is easy to notice that these two versions of ZHONG1WEN2 are starkly dissimilar.
The first version has 23 characters, while the second version has 25 characters. In such a short text, that alone makes the first version seem more succinct and terse, the second somewhat more expansive and even wordy. Of course, there are certain basic terms that are constant in both versions: QIAN1BI2 鉛筆 / 铅笔 ("pencil"), TE4BIE2 特別 ("special[ly]"), HE2 和 ("and"), and XIAO1JIAN1 削尖 ("sharpen").
One might argue that the differences are due simply to the fact that they were most likely done by different translators who have their own styles and arrived at their own solutions for rendering the original German. However, in every instance where there are substantial differences between version I and version II, version I seems more natural to me. That surely must be because I learned my "Chinese" in the linguistic environment of Taiwan, which has maintained a conservative, older fashioned type of written Mandarin, not on the Mainland, where radical changes have occurred in the terminology and modes of expression employed for written Mandarin, including heavy influence from Marxist and Communist writing that was originally composed in German or Russian. For example, version I starts off with GAO1JI2 高級 ("high quality"), which is a perfectly acceptable and common term for me, whereas version II begins with DING3JI2 顶级 ("top quality") which, quite frankly, strikes me as a bit strange, though entirely within the realm of possibility (sounds almost like a made-up term to my ear).
Even grammatically, the second version strikes me as odd and awkward. For instance, the second line reads TE4BIE2 FANG2 DUAN4XIN1 CHU3LI3, which probably was intended to mean something like "specially processed to prevent breakage," but the CHU3LI3 ("processed") comes out of nowhere. In a quick glance at all the other languages on the box, I didn't notice any other version that had a word like "processed" in the second line.
I could go through each word and each line of version I and version II, and — where they differ — it would be the same in each case: I would feel more comfortable with version I.
Have the "Chinese" languages of the Mainland and the Sinophone diaspora elsewhere diverged to such a degree that we need two separate versions of ZHONGWEN on a single German pencil box? Whether they are that different or not, I believe that it is extravagant to use up two slots for ZHONGWEN on the same pencil box when there are so many other worthy candidates, such as Norwegian, Danish, Persian, Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Orissi, Marathi, Thai, Vietnamese, Turkish, Bahasa Indonesia, and Hebrew. Furthermore, if we want to start listing all the different "Chinese" languages, then we'll have at least to put down Cantonese and Taiwanese, and I'm sure that some proud denizens of that great metropolis at the mouth of the Yangtze will speak up for Shanghai(n)ese too.
Incidentally, my guess is that the urtext for these instructions was — as one might have expected — German. The English, at least, is not entirely native, e.g., the hardness of a pencil is measured in "grades," not "degrees."
[I thank my colleague Arthur Waldron and his son Charles for supplying the empty pencil box.]