To solely rely on online translation tools for translation may result in serious backfiring for your business. Translation facilitates communication, however, there are times when translation fails, whether it’s from social media posts or billboards, banners and tv. On the hindsight, it does elicit emotions and can be used as a comical form of distribution.
Most people around the world get their information from various social media platforms. Users of social media share news and entertainment, conduct business, find old and new friends and generally communicate with more people quickly.
However, there are times when you cannot take what you see on social media posts as factual or real. The more popular social media sites offer translation in several languages. But you cannot rely on the translations because they fail at times, making you dumbfounded in trying to make sense of what the post means.
Of course, there are other sites where travellers share the translation fails (or mistranslations) they see while visiting foreign countries.
It’s unfortunate that incidents such as these happen but it also shows that professional translation services is needed to properly communicate with an international audience.
Majulah Singapura is the national anthem of Singapore. It translates into ”Onward Singapore.” In Malay, the very first line of the anthem’s lyrics reads, “Mari kita rakyat.” On the National Day of Singapore, a city-based sushi chain called Maki-san created a special sushi and named it “Maki Kita,” intended as a pun on the name of the sushi shop and the special day. But whoever thought of it did not check the meaning of the pun in the Malay language. In Malay, ”maki kita” translates to ”curse us” which is not clever or funny at all. The Instagram post was immediately deleted but many people already saw it and took screenshots.
Temporary vow of chastity
Denise Dalton, a Maltese model shared a photo on her Facebook account of two young foreign students who became friends while studying in Malta. They decided to get a matching henna tattoo declaring that they are now ”sisters.” However, it seemed that they looked up the translation of the word sisters in Maltese from an online translation tool, which came up with the word ”sorijiet.” However, in Maltese, the term is the translation for ”nun.” A blood-related female sibling in Maltese is called ”oħt.” It is a good thing that the tattoo was not permanent and would eventually fade in about two weeks.
The “Dream Big, Princess” is an international campaign of Disney. It was meant to empower girls worldwide. The company decided to have the hashtags and marketing slogans translated into eight languages. In Arabic, the translation reads, ”Your dreams are real, princess.” But they did not pay too much attention to details, and came up with the disjointed Arabic hashtag, أحلامك حقيقة يا أميرة that had spaces between words.
Twitter and Facebook are popular sources of posts of mistranslated words, phrases and full sentences, shared and re-shared by many users, complete with users’ remarks and comments and posts of their own.
These posts are sources of some hilarity and fun at the expense of others who may have good intention but did not have the foresight to get a professional translator to do the translation work. It’s understandable that companies want to save but sometimes the amount that they saved is not even commensurate to the lost reputation and integrity of the company.
Not only the small companies are guilty of being careless when it comes to translations. Many international companies, with well-known brands also committed translation fails due to negligence. The damages caused often cost international brands several thousands to rectify.
Recall of Milka Oreo chocolate bars
A wrong translation in Arabic of the ingredients of Milka Oreo chocolate bars manufactured by Mondelēz International and sold in Dubai led to a product recall. The translation error showed that alcohol was included as one of its ingredients. The rumor was circulated in the WhatsApp service of the company. The product was recalled and tested by the Dubai Municipality Food Safety Department.
A company official explained that samples of the recalled product were tested and found to be negative of alcohol content and declared that it was due to a translation failure. An ingredient, the semi-solid chocolate paste called ”chocolate liquor” was separated into two words, therefore the Arabic translation came up with translation for chocolate and translation for liquor. Chocolate liquor is pure chocolate mass, with equal proportions of cocoa butter and cocoa solids. The product was safe for consumption and was a halal food, but the recall became necessary because of the translation fail in the product wrapper.
By the way, there is another product called ”chocolate liqueur” that is entirely different. This product is alcoholic, typically with a vodka base where chocolate flavour is added.
Mis-translated menus and signs
For several years, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and personal blog sites uploaded various mistranslation in menus, warnings and signs people found while traveling overseas. Many are from China but there are also several from other countries. Here are some examples.
Shared on Twitter
- Stupid bean sprouts fried rice
- Shredded rich family of bacteria
- The car hit cheese bacon mushroom face
- Sexual harassment dried bamboo shoot
- Please keep quiet and take care of your children. No romping in potato. (Chinese)
- Le Refuge de L’alpage = Regulation of Life in Ownership (from a French holiday apartment)
- You are my love my angle don’t treat me like a potato. (Hotel room sign in China)
- A tourist map in China where all points of interest along a street are marked with ”You are Here.”
From various sources
- Our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy (a sign in a restaurant)
- Let us do the birds friend (sign in a park)
- Child beer available here (store sign)
- Qualfication: Wash by hand 30 °C / No chlorine / No wring / In coleslaw (dress tag)
- Wasted and Broke (instant noodle pack)
- Noun area bathing / adjective forbidden (warning sign at a beach)
- Beware of Dogs Survivors will be persecuted (sign on a residential wall in China)
- Execution in Progress (warning sign in a road construction site in China)
Shared on Instagram
Throw your trash in the trash bin
It’s nice to encourage tourists to throw rubbish in trashcans. In China, there was a large sign with a pictogram of a person throwing trash in a designated bin. The English translation of the sign says, “Poisonous and Evil Trash.”
In a public toilet, also in China, a poster taped on the wall states, “Prohibition of defecation”
In another toilet, the sign says, “In the interests of hygiene, please flash the toilet after used. Thank you.”
From a breakfast menu in Chingrish: Breakfast of Single – A bowl of cornmeal includes samp, doughnut and slave meter.
In another menu, the different rice preparations included ”Single Fight Rice” and ”Larry Rice”
Keep off the grass
You might actually step on the grass instead of keeping away from it to read the cute sign that says, “The grass beside you. Please smiles around”
At another park, the sign says, ”The small grass is feel ashamed to smile, please don’t bother it.”
Reminders inside public transportation
Sign inside public transportation in China: “Please Take the Initiative for Bringing Invalidity Pregnant Parks.
This sign is probably installed inside a bus: “Gets hold of arm rest to fall the wound carefully.”
A colourful poster for Häagen-Dazs ice cream in China was translated into ”An old person and Puppy.”
Someone broke a fortune cookie to find a message that reads, ”Actions speak louder than talks.”
Signs for tourists
A nice sign for tourists in China: “Take care of all your way when travelling, safe and civilized are golden.”
A hotel sign says, Hotel Thing Confluence”
At an airport in China: A “Liquor Abandoned Place” sign was placed near a large stainless receptacle.
Like in China, many hotels in Japan also have translation fails in their signs and warnings. Here are a few:
This is a request not to steal hotel towels: “Is forbitten to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notis.”
To control the room temperature: “Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.”
For security reasons: “Depositing the room key into another person is prohibited.”
The (not so) proper way to enter the elevator: “Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.”
Hospitality wins: “It is our intention to pleasure you every day.”
From all the examples we’ve listed, it is apparent that it is necessary to use a professional language solutions service provider to translate signs, menus, warnings, brand names, slogans and other marketing materials.
A trusted partner like Transn International Singapore believes in producing relevant content writing and marketing for your customers. We believe that translation is not just about words but language of intention. When a text is translated, a professional translator must be experienced in understanding the target language’s audiences’ culture, beliefs, values, and language patterns.
Transn International Singapore provides services to major industries for signs, menus, warnings, brand names, slogans, website and many other marketing collateral. For industry specific, Transn provides medical translation services, construction translation services, media translation services, financial translation services, logistics translation services, legal translation services and maritime translation services. Having a pool of expert translators within each specific industry, it brings us to the forefront of being able to translate your messages accurately and in accordance to proper legal requirements.
(Source: Day Translations)