Lost in Translation

Recently Google has unveiled plans to take its online translator to another level and combine it with mobiles to create what they are calling a “universal translators”. Their concept is that the user can speak into their device in their native tongue whist the receiver hears it on their own device in their own pre-selected language. It seems like science fiction is becoming science fact.

However, before we all rush out to do business across the world, it is important that we understand that the nuances of the spoken language can be lost in literal translation, resulting in a complete misunderstanding, and that whilst a slightly imprecise translation tool may be a useful if not entirely successful aide for the tourist abroad, it is unlikely to be appropriate for businesses to rely on such technology as part of their communications strategy.

In the past a number of businesses have been caught out with expensive translation mistakes. Here are just a few of the mistakes where literal translation has caused confusion and that some businesses would rather forget. Good for a chuckle though! Great thoughts from our friends at www.workplacetranslation.com

1. Parker Pens

We’re guessing Parker Pen would rather forget when they wanted advertisements in Mexico to translate as: “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Seems a perfectly clear instruction? Unfortunately it was misinterpreted to mean something else entirely and the ad ran in Mexico read “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.

2. Pepsi

The Pepsi slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” literally translated in Taiwanese became, “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead” Not only a bit creepy but also culturally an insult.

2. Kentucky Fried Chicken

In China, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger-lickin’ good” became “eat your fingers off”, implying an action considered culturally rude and uncivilised.

3. Coors

Beer manufacturer Coors tried to translate its slogan, “Turn it loose”, into Spanish. It went horribly wrong when it was read as “Suffer from diarrhoea”.

4. American Airlines

To advertise their leather seats, American Airlines used the slogan, “Fly in Leather”, which translated in Spanish for the market in Mexico as, “Fly naked”.

5. General Motors

When General Motors introduced their Nova in South America, the company was unaware that “No Va” meant “It won’t go”.

So our advice, make sure your business translations are accurate and appropriate before you go public!

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