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McDonald’s Botches Hmong Billboard

McDonald’s ended up with Egg McMuffin on its face after it attempted to reach out to St. Paul, Minnesota’s Hmong community with two new billboards.

The billboards in question were meant to encourage local Hmong residents to patronize McDonald’s for breakfast, using the slogan “Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going.”

Unfortunately, whoever translated the slogan into Hmong didn’t do a particularly good job. The vocabulary is there, but local residents say the syntax is off and there aren’t spaces between the words.

As resident Bruce Thao, who speaks Hmong, explained to the Post Bulletin,

“It sounds weird in Hmong because we don’t really talk like that. Either way, there should definitely be spaces in between those words.”

Once the error was pointed out, Gregg Miskiel, marketing director of McDonald’s Midwest Region, released the following statement to the media:

“While it was our intention to create a special message for our Hmong population in Minnesota, we now realize that an error was made in the translation of ‘Coffee Gets You Up, Breakfast Gets You Going.’ It was not our intention to offend anyone and we apologize for the error. We are working with our local advertising agency to correct these billboards and will re-post next week.”

St. Paul is home to the largest Hmong community in the United States, so it’s no surprise that McDonald’s would want to reach out. However, when you reach out to a community that speaks another language, you need to make an effort to get it right by hiring a qualified translation company and perhaps recruiting members of that community to preview your advertising before it goes live.

There’s no telling how McDonald’s perky breakfast slogan got lost in translation, but some additional due diligence could have saved the company some embarrassment.

See Huffington

Badly Translated DVD Covers

Pretty sure all of these are bootlegs. But they’re funny none the less. Ladies and Gents here are my favourite DVD cover bad translations.

Loin King II.

‘not as good as the first one, but ok’.

not as good as the first one but ok

50 Fist Dates

Drew Barrymore’s face says it all. That’s the last time she’s using tinder.

50-fist-dates

Arnie Star Wars

Would have made this movie a million times better with Arnie in it, ‘get to the faaaalcon’.

arnie-star-wars

Jesus Speaks Nigerian

It says broadcast time is up to 3000 minutes. That’s 50 hours! (is that more than the whole of Breaking Bad?).

jesus-speaks-nigerian

40 Year Old Virgem

40-year-old-virgem

Saving Mr Banks II

aka Freezing Mr Disney.

Saving Mr Banks II

Metal Man

metal-not-iron-man

Sean Connery Vs Who?

Sure some people (not me) would agree with this.

sean-connery-vs-the-cock

The Matrix Reloaded

With an interesting plot addition.

the-matrix

Lost in Translation

My #1 movie of all time… but its looks different.

lost-in-translation

The Incredible Hulk

or is that King Kong. Maybe its a mash-up. You wouldn’t like us when we’re angry.

the-incredible-KING-HULK

28 Signs we didn’t Translate

Something tells me the translations of the following 28 signs are not quite right.

Its was an accident

accident-porn-area

Anyone missed a foot?

beware-of-missing-foot Read more

Funniest Translation Mistakes of 2015 (So Far)

Can you believe we’re over halfway through 2015? Me neither. It’s been a great year for translation mistakes so far, so let’s take a look at some of the funniest translation errors and gaffes to date:

Please Don’t Eat the Carpet

The staff at Chennai Airport in India were just trying to keep crumbs off the floor, but something got lost in translation…

A photo posted by #JewJetting (@justinrosslee) on

It seems they meant “No sitting and eating on the carpet.” 

Read more

Translation Fails in the Wild: A Trip to the Asian Dollar Store

Near my house, there is a small shopping center dominated by Asian-owned businesses. There is a Thai restaurant, an Asian market, a Taekwondo studio…and a “dollar store” featuring a variety of cheap goods, mostly made in China.

I love the Asian dollar store.  They have everything:  random bits of hardware, freaky colored contacts, luggage, wigs and so much more.  They also make some rather interesting merchandising decisions, like interspersing saw blades amongst the pedicure supplies.

And then there are the products that seem to have gotten lost in translation, with packaging that ranges from the awkward to the incomprehensible. Here are some of my favorites:

The Oxygen Bar

asiandollarstore1

I’m not sure what this does…perhaps it’s some sort of humidifier? The words on the box are less than enlightening:

“Between noise and peace there is a bridge, Brought them together, Just like human being and nature, is alwaysinsep arable.”

You know what else should be inseparable?  The letters in the word “inseparable.”

The Coffee Set

asiandollarstore3

“The features of practicality and beautyshow perfection; greatestefforts and endlessseeking”

Just what I was looking for in a coffee set!

Amphibious Pal and Her Baby

AsianDollarStore4

“It really swim s and crawls” What is with the random spaces here?

Aquatic Animals Anion Humidifier

AsianDollarStore2

“Fresh: Come back to natural, purify the air.

Add wetly: Transfer water in to fog moist air

Cosmetology: Create the foggy oxygen bar, wet the skin.

Intersperse: Interior decoration, the fashion is furnished.”

Uh-huh.

Bonus: Personal Air Conditioner Instructionsasiandollarstore5

This one is actually from Costco, but it was too good not to share.

When you’re trying to sell your product in a foreign market, the last thing in the world you want is to leave potential buyers scratching their heads as they try to translate your translations.  Don’t rely on Google Translate. You need a skilled translator. Take a look and see how we can help!

Newspaper Discovers Limits of Google Translate

In the United States, Spanish-speaking Latinos are a rapidly growing demographic. Naturally, some news organizations cater to them with Spanish-language editions, especially online.

However, according to Fox News, when the Hartford Courant decided to follow suit, they did not hire a translator, choosing instead to run all of their articles through Google Translate.

The results were about what you’d expect: embarrassing.

Former Hartford Courant columnist Bessy Reyna collected some of the most ridiculous examples of poor translation on her blog. Here are a couple of the juiciest nuggets of failure on display:

  • ”El hombre florero Over Head Smashed novia, policía dice” Literal translation: “The man flower vase Over Head Smashed Girlfriend, police said”
  • Este mujer Hartford acusado de apuñalar con el hombrepelador de patatas” which literally reads: “This woman Hartford Accused of stabbing the man with potato peeler.”

To address the criticism, the paper issued the following disclaimer:

“However, readers should be aware that due to limitations in the Google software some of the translations of the English headlines and articles don’t always translate accurately word-for-word into Spanish.”

Duh. On one level, it’s understandable that a local paper might not have the resources to devote to hiring a full-time Spanish translator. However, simply plugging all of their content into Google Translate appears to be counterproductive. According to Bessy Reyna, Latinos perceived the error-ridden translations as insulting, even offensive:

“Their reactions ranged from “This isn’t even Spanglish” to “Did you see the one today about Norwich? It’s to laugh and cry at the same time.” Others thought it was simply lack of respect and yet another way to humiliate the Latino community.”

The truth is, no matter what business you’re in, if you’re trying to communicate with customers in another language, there’s no substitute for a translator who knows both languages in and out. It’s impossible to put your best foot forward using Google Translate, or any other machine translation program for that matter!

Do you think newspapers should rely on Google Translate?

10 Food packs we DIDN’T translate

Translating food packaging isn’t easy – we should know because we do over a thousand products a week. These guys have got it so wrong its funny but could you imagine your product on shelf saying something stupid in a different language? Nor could we, give us a call and we’ll sort it out for you.

For now… here are the top ten disasters we’ve seen this week. In no particular order… Read more

Blogger Fired for Writing About Homophones

Tim Torkildson, a writer hired to manage a blog for a Utah language learning school, got his 15 minutes of fame last week after the language school fired him for writing a post about homophones.

“Homophones” are simply words that sound the same, like “read” and “reed” or “see” and “sea.” As you can imagine, they can be confusing for English language learners and students need to be taught how to distinguish them.  The post that got Torkildson fired was a short bit about homophones beginning with the letter”A” that should have offended absolutely nobody.

Unfortunately, Torkildson’s boss was offended.  Apparently his brain stopped working once he read the prefix “homo-.” Here’s how Torkildson describes what happened the next day:

“I’m letting you go because I can’t trust you” said Clarke Woodger, my boss and the owner of Nomen Global Language Center.  “This blog about homophones was the last straw.  Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality.”

I said nothing, stunned into silence.

“I had to look up the word” he continued, “because I didn’t know what the hell you were talking about.  We don’t teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it’s extremely inappropriate.  Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning?  I’ll have your check ready.”

Oh, those dirty, dirty homophones! Of course, the Internet loves a good idiot, so Torkildson’s story quickly went viral. In his zeal to avoid having his school associated with the prefix “homo,”  Mr. Woodger has all but ensured that it will be associated with homophobia on the search engines for some time to come and possibly forever.

I didn’t try to make any clever homophobia/homophone puns because it’s all been done at this point, but if you need a good laugh check out “The Homophone Menace” on the Washington Post. It’s a thing of beauty.