10 Translation Errors That Could Have Been Avoided

10 translation errorsFinding the right word isn’t always easy – whether or not a translation is involved. Yet the difference between the right word and wrong word could be the difference between a successful business venture, and one that flops. When translating your business message to an international audience, finding that right work could be just about the most challenging thing you have to do.

Most businesses realize this and look toward translation and localization experts to help them avoid costly and embarrassing mistakes. Sadly, however, many businesses continue to “go it alone” by either using online translation tools, or their bilingual coworker or cousin to get the job done.

As a result, there’s never any shortage of translation errors that pop on online. And while many of these translation errors are humorous to read, keep in mind that most of them aren’t as funny to the businesses who made the error to begin with. Often times, these errors cost thousands of dollars to remedy, and possibly lost customers for life.

1. Cannibalization in marketing -  The KFC slogan “Finger Lickin’ Good” was translated into Chinese as “Eat Your Fingers Off”.

2. Sound advice - A sign in a Chinese Subway Line Advises Passengers What to Do in Case of an Emergency: “If you are stolen, please call the police at once.”

3. More than you asked to see - A Bangkok Dry Cleaning Service featured the sign: “Drop your trousers here for the best results.”

4. Talk about ladies night out - A Norway nightclub featured this: “Ladies are requested not to have children at the bar.”

5. Umm, waiter, there’s something in my drink – A cafe in Narita International Airport offered “Flesh Juice” as part of its breakfast menu.

6. Is it really a warning sign if no one understands it? A restaurant in Mexico tests the theory: “We thank him to discover their head before entering to this enclosure.”

7. Wait a minute (read it twice if you have to understand the mistake) -“This hotel is renowned for its peace and solitude. In fact, crowds from all over the world flock here to enjoy its solitude.”

8. The animals have finally revolted! - A sign on the wall of a fur shop in Sweden informed customers that “Fur coats are made for ladies from their own skin”.

9. Grammar does matter! A sign on a Safari Park in Kenya posted the following: “Elephants please stay in your car.”

10. The Magical Powers of Pepsi - In Taiwan, the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” was mistakenly translated as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead!”

Yes, these translation errors are funny, but …

Translation blunders and errors cost you valuable business. Even the misplacement of a comma, or the literal translation of a word (when the literal translation is unneeded) can send a completely different message from what you intended.

How, then, can you ensure that your translated messages hit their mark?

Only a trained and professional language translator will ensure your every word is understood in the manner of its intent, by everyone in your international audience. This includes:

  • Documents
  • Contracts
  • Marketing materials
  • Social media postings
  • Email messages
  • Court documents
  • Financial statements
  • Web content/pages
  • Video/audio records
  • And much more

A professional translation agency will help you convert your message, not in the textbook-form of a language, but in the language that’s actually used by your target population. Language evolves thanks to culture, political climate, and more. When you hire a professional translator, you work with a person who is not only expert in your desired language, but in the culture and way of thinking of your target region.


10 translation errors

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