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.
We love sharing our reasons to visit different places around the world, but we also enjoy hearing from you. Is there somewhere we’ve missed that you want everyone to know about?
Today we’re hearing from Emily Nemchick, who lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her top ten reasons to visit the city.
1. The Museums
Although many Londoners might baulk at having to pay to enter Pittsburgh’s museums, they are well worth a visit if you’re in town. Pittsburgh’s Carnegie museums offer a whole day’s worth of fun for art or history lovers. The Andy Warhol museum is also worth looking up for pop art fans, and the Mattress Factory is the perfect day trip for enthusiasts of quirky and imaginative art installations.
2. Mt. Washington
Mt. Washington offers some of the best views of Pittsburgh’s downtown, rivers and gorgeous skyline. Though it has a reputation as a rust-belt city, Pittsburgh’s setting at the confluence of the Ohio and Monongahela rivers makes for some extremely worthwhile vantage points from Mt. Washington’s overlook. Plus, if the season is right, Mt. Washington has some pretty darned good ice cream, too.
3. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail
Anyone who likes to bike or hike should definitely give Pittsburgh a go. Not only does it have trails aplenty, it boasts a biking trail that stretches from downtown Pittsburgh all the way to Washington D.C. For less adventurous bikers or those questing for a quiet stroll, there are also shorter riverside trails, which are a great way to see Pittsburgh whilst enjoying a bit of nature.
4. Local Cuisine (Pierogies!)
Pittsburgh has strong Polish heritage, and as such a local favourite is pierogies. If that isn’t your thing, there are still countless local restaurants offering a range of tasty cuisines. There are great places scattered all over town. Try Primanti Bros for a real taste of traditional Pittsburgh fare – their specialty is sandwiches with chips (French fries) and coleslaw inside the sandwich. It’s pretty decent, actually.
5. Pirates, Penguins and Steel
Not too many actual pirates or penguins unfortunately, but Pittsburgh’s sports teams might make up for the lack if you’re into American football, baseball or ice hockey at all. Pittsburgh’s PNC Park is a huge sports stadium which is a great place to catch a game if you’re in the Burgh during baseball season.
6. The Strip District
This is my absolute favourite place to be in Pittsburgh. The Strip District isn’t as naughty as it sounds, but it’s a great place to spend the afternoon nonetheless. The Strip is a long street boasting specialty cheese stores, coffee shops, fishmongers, butchers, baked goods, spices, open fruit and veg markets and a ton of great bars and restaurants. Anything you want to buy, you can buy in the Strip. It’s also a great place just to window shop and hang out.
7. Phipps Conservatory
Pittsburgh not only has awesome museums but a pretty nifty conservatory chock full of gorgeous flowers and plants. The exhibits change with the seasons, but they are always worth a visit.
8. The South Side
Anyone in search of some nightlife should check out the South Side, home to the happiest happy hours, the hippest clubs (I would assume from their long lines on Saturday nights) and the hoppiest bar hops (I wanted to keep that going there, but seriously, good bars). The South Side is a great place to go out to dinner, grab a few drinks or have a night out on the town affordably.
9. Station Square
Station Square is a fun place to check out some nice boutiques or head to a fancy restaurant. In the summer, it’s also the ideal place to break up a bike ride with a rest and a drink, because it’s right on the South Side bike trail. You can even roll your sightseeing into one and hop on the Incline (cable car) down from Mt. Washington. Pittsburgh is pretty pocket-sized, so it’s a great place to explore on foot, and Station Square is a fun and convenient addition to any itinerary.
I confess, I saved the best until last. Pittsburgh is the home of many fantastic breweries, and locally brewed beer is pretty epic. Church Brew Works is a must-see as a brewery built inside a converted church, East End Brewing Co. has some tasty seasonal brews, and even whiskey fans can enjoy Pittsburgh’s locally distilled whiskey at Wigle.
It may not be the most glamorous city, but Pittsburgh has tried hard to change its traditional image as a rust-belt city and is regarded as one of America’s most livable cities. It’s guaranteed to keep tourists happy for days too. Stop by if you get a chance!
By Emily Nemchick, English expat and happy Pittsburgh resident.
Do get in touch with us if you’d like to share a ’10 reasons’ post of your own, or you have a suggestion for where we should cover next.
Last week, a report was published using a series of maps to show the distribution of languages besides English and Spanish in the USA. We thought it was really interesting to see the huge number of languages spoken in one country; it’s easy to assume one country means one (or maybe two) languages.
Here’s a fantastic infographic shared with us by FreePeopleSearch.org, which looks in more detail at the history, distribution and usage of languages in the USA. We hope you find it as interesting as we do!