Search

Translating Aotearoa

Category

Found in translation

Found in translation 15

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, gathered from the Web and suggested by some of you. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny or appalling mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Crab driving

While some road works were being done in Kyushu, Japan, a detour sign was installed and read:Stop: Drive Sideways.’ Most English speaking drivers wouldn’t know what to do!

  1. Religious dental care

It isn’t well known but you can get dental treatment at your local church. At least, this seems to be the case in Hong Kong where a dentist proudly advertised: ‘Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.’

  1. Zombies picking flowers

Following a number of incidents and complaints, a sign was posted in an Italian cemetery: ‘Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.’ Flower-picking zombies are really an issue after all!

Found in translation 14

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, gathered from the Web and suggested by some of you. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny or appalling mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Crème brulée, New Caledonian style

One of our lucky freelance translators, Elinor, came from New Caledonia all relaxed and slightly burnt. While in the islands, she was quite amused by some of the ‘creative’ English translations on display. In one instance, a restaurant offered a ‘duet of creams burned house’. Luckily, it didn’t taste burnt, and the house remained standing.

  1. Baby food

Not a translation blunder per se, but definitely a lack of cultural awareness. As Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they put a picture of a baby on the label of their jars, just as they do in Europe and the United States. The company was not aware of the common practice in some African markets of putting pictures of the contents on the labels since many consumers are illiterate. Many customers were left horrified.

  1. ‘Dumb passengers’ and other disabilities

Not only was Romania’s flag carrier TAROM recently found to be in breach of European disability discrimination rules, they also addressed people with cognitive impairments as ‘dumb passengers’ in English. They quickly apologised for this ‘regrettable mistake’.

Stefan

Found in translation 13

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, gathered from the Web. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny or appalling mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. The many lives of humans

A backpackers in Xinjiang offers good rooms at very cheap prices. It also gives guests the opportunity to ‘have three human lives’ or even ‘four human lives’, in other words ‘many human lives’. Like cats, humans staying at that place will have 9 lives!

  1. Susie of Arabia

American blogger Susie has been living in Saudi Arabia for 7 years now and keeps track of funny translations, and ‘Saudinglish’. One example is a restaurant’s menu offering an appetising ‘Itch salad with bourghul’. Perhaps this is to warn guests that the dish is spicy?

  1. You cold-hearted pedestrian

As in many parks, a sign in China asks pedestrians to refrain from walking on grass. That particular patch is ‘tender and fragrant’ so it is of special value and should be cherished. The sign warns ‘How hardhearted [it would be] to trample them’.

Stefan

Found in translation 12

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, gathered from the Web. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny or appalling mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Interpreting creatively

Yet another South African interpretation fiasco has been widely covered by the media. During the Oscar Pistorius trial, former policeman Colonel Giliam van Rensburg testified in Afrikaans: ‘…the person was already dead when the paramedics arrived…’ The interpreter translated ‘the body died on their arrival’. After the appalling performance of the sign language interpreter at Mandela’s memorial ceremony, one may wonder what is going on in the interpreting community of South Africa.

  1. Don’t take the lift

You don’t know what may happen. In Belgrade, Serbia, a sign in a lift reads: ‘To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.’ Tourists may be confused.

  1. French values

The French are famous for being less prudish than Anglo-Saxons. A sign in a Parisian hotel confirms just that by daringly asking clients to ‘leave [their] values at the front desk’. A bit ‘olé olé’, isn’t it?

Found in translation 11

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, gathered from the Web. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Dogs and pregnancy

Sri Lanka’s government has recently had to apologise for numerous errors in translations of official notices and documents into the language of the Tamil minority. One sign read ‘Reserved for pregnant mothers’ in Sinhala and English. The Tamil read ‘Reserved for pregnant dogs’. The government assured that they had not intended to insult the Tamil people. After a long civil war between the Sinhala-dominated army and the Tamil Tigers separatists, one would hope the government marked quality translations as a high priority.

  1. Public money down the drain

The Electoral Commissioner for South Australia, Kay Mousley, told ABC Radio Breakfast that the Arabic translation on ‘Easy Vote’ cards sent to 1.14 million voters is ‘gibberish’. She said they have now set up a Facebook link to a translation that makes sense… An expensive mistake for South Australian taxpayers.

  1. BBC’d out

The BBC recently encountered a number of subtitling issues. Although the subtitles weren’t translations, they were quite funny. Some were rather offensive, others simply puzzling. Take for instance the name of famous Manchester United footballer Adnan Junazaj whose name became ‘Janet jazz jazz jam’. There are lots of other examples…

Found in translation 10

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, taken from a book titled Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, published by Perigee Trade. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Funerals on schedule

A sign in the lobby of a hotel in Moscow located across from a Russian Orthodox monastery reads ‘You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday’. It’s the undertaker’s day off.

  1. Skinny look?

A Swedish furrier put up a poster on his shop window promising ‘Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin’. It’s bound to make you look skinnier!

  1. Womanitis

Did you know that in Rome, Italy you could consult with a ‘specialist in women and other diseases’? One has to wonder whether this gynaecologist is very popular among women who understand English.

Stefan

Found in translation 8

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, taken from a book titled Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, published by Perigee Trade. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Chocolate Bonanza

In the 1950s, chocolate companies started encouraging Japanese men and women to celebrate Valentine’s Day. A mistranslation by one of those companies gave people the idea that women were meant to give chocolate to men on 14 February, and that’s what they do to this day! Every Valentine’s Day, the women of Japan shower their men with various chocolates, and the men return the favour one month later. Now that’s a successful marketing campaign!

  1. An Expensive ‘Do’

Mistranslations can be rather costly. Ask HSBC what they think! In 2009, the bank launched a US$10 million rebranding campaign to repair the damage done when its slogan ‘Assume Nothing’ was translated as ‘Do Nothing’ in several countries.

  1. Trouble in Waitangi

Closer to home, a famous mistranslation has had far-reaching consequences for New Zealand and Maori-Pakeha relations. In 1840, the British government made a deal with the Maori chiefs of the time. The Maori wanted protection from marauding convicts, sailors, and traders, while the British wanted to expand their colonial holdings. The Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up, but both sides signed different documents. The English version states that the Maori ceded ‘to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty’. In the Maori translation, carried out by a British missionary, they didn’t give up sovereignty, but governance, thereby keeping their right to rule themselves. Things turned out quite differently, and issues around the meaning of this treaty are still being worked out.

S.G.

Found in translation 9

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest blunders found in translation, taken from a book titled Found in Translation: How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World, published by Perigee Trade. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. Po(pe)tato

In Miami, a t-shirt manufacturer printed t-shirts in Spanish to commemorate the Pope’s visit. Unfortunately, by referring to the Pontiff as “la papa” instead of “el Papa”, their t-shirts read: “I saw the potato.”

  1. A Costly Word

In the early 1980s, Willie Ramirez was admitted to a hospital in Florida in a comatose state. His family tried to describe his condition to the medical personnel who treated him, but they only spoke Spanish. A bilingual staff member jumped in and translated ‘intoxicado’ as ‘intoxicated’. A professional interpreter would have known that ‘intoxicado’ is closer to ‘poisoned’ and doesn’t have the same connotations of drug or alcohol use that ‘intoxicated’ does. While Ramirez’s family believed that he was suffering from food poisoning – he was in fact suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage – the doctors treated him as if he were suffering from an intentional drug overdose. Because of the delay in treatment, Ramirez was left quadriplegic, and received a malpractice settlement of $71 million.

  1. Lusting for the Future

For President Carter’s trip to Poland in 1977, the State Department hired the services of a Russian interpreter who happened to know Polish, but was not used to interpreting professionally in that language. With the interpreter’s help, Carter ended up saying things in Polish like ‘when I abandoned the United States’ (rather than ‘when I left the United States’) and ‘your lusts for the future’ (for ‘your desires for the future’). The media in both countries enjoyed these mistakes very much.

S.G.

Found in translation 8

All translations are not equal. A good translation is one that conveys the same meaning as the source text and sounds natural in the target language (if that is the desired outcome of the translation). Some do just the opposite. Here are some of the greatest howlers found in translation, taken from a book titled Übelsetzungen – Sprachspannen aus aller Welt, published by Langenscheidt. We hope you enjoy them.

If you come across funny mistranslations, feel free to share them with us.

  1. A Treacherous Sign

The beautiful waterfalls of Agua Azul in the rainforest of Mexico are often overlooked by foreign tourists who run to the Mayan ruins nearby – and maybe that’s for the better. Those who make it to the waterfalls are welcomed by a sign reading ‘Dangerous not to swim’. Given the powerful current, ‘Dangerous – Do not swim’ would have been a more accurate translation…

  1. Speak to the English Well

Lake Garda attracts many international tourists, and rightly so. But all tourists aren’t welcome. A shop in Salò is quite frank about the shopkeeper’s poor social skills, especially towards some nationalities, and their love of Italians: a sign reads ‘Entrances also unfortunately we do not speak well to the German and English but we are many simpati to us’. A word to the wise.

  1. Do not Eat Panda

Contradicting thousands of years of human history, a wildlife sanctuary in Chengdu, China advises tourists at the panda enclosure that ‘Wildlife is not food’. In case they were wondering, the panda is not for food.

  1. Follow-up on the turkey blunder

Denise laughed at last month’s turkey blunder and wished to share an interesting fact: as the turkey is a native bird of America, which was ‘East India’ for Columbus, the French word ‘dinde’, which is a condensed form of ‘d’Inde’ (from India) is in fact accurate, whereas the English word ‘turkey’ must be attributed to a geographical mistake. The same goes for the word ‘guinea pig’: in French, the pig comes from India (‘cochon d’Inde’) since it originates from America (a.k.a. India), and not from Guinea.

Thanks Denise for sharing!

S.G.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑