Translation mistakes – not just for laughs
Today we have a guest post from language company, thebigword, on famous translation mistakes, some of which had serious consequences. Mistakes are common, and to be expected, when you’re learning a language – but when it really matters, it’s important to get it right!
Over the years there have been many translation ‘slip ups’ and faux pas, and whilst the mistakes may seem funny some can have a far more serious impact. Reputable language solution agencies such as thebigword, specialise in international translation and you can bet your bottom dollar that they wouldn’t be caught making slip ups like the following.
There have been many incidences over the years where mis-translation can go from highly amusing to potentially life damaging. For example, Mead Johnson Nutritionals in 2003 had a case raised against them when 4.6 million cans of baby food had to be recalled. The translation error, which was caused by effectively being lazy, meant that the prescribed recipe translated into Spanish could have caused massive health issues, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Businesses and the world financial markets have also paid the price at the hands of poor translation, most notably when the price of the U.S. dollar was sent spiralling after an incorrect translation of an article by Guan Xiangdong for the China News Service. Guan’s original piece was meant to be a speculative overview of a series of financial reports, but instead it was translated in a more aggressive tone, which ultimately made readers in the U.S. think it was an authoritative warning and they should move their money and sell shares.
The Chicago Tribune published a highly shareable article not that long ago when it collated a series of images captured by tourists on their worldly travels. Examples from China included, ‘man toilet’ and ‘The government decides to cracking down fakes intensively for another three years’. However, our favourite has to be, ‘Because there is the situation when a step is bad, please be careful’. We’re pretty positive that was meant to say ‘mind your step’.
Of course, no faux pas goes unnoticed in the world of marketing, where language on billboards or even newspaper advertising isn’t missed by the most ardent observer.
The popular Dairy Association campaign, ‘Got Milk?’, raised an eyebrow or two when in Mexico it was translated to ‘Are you lactating?’ And in France, Colgate produced a new range of toothpaste called Cue; little did anyone realise that it had the same name as a well-known adult magazine. Now that is what we call a faux pas!
Do you have any favourite translation errors? Please share them in the comments below.