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This Week in Translation Errors

When it comes to bad translations, we believe a little sunlight is the best disinfectant. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some notable translation fails in the news this week.

First, the BBC. The news channel rung in the Chinese New Year with a special broadcast…and a caption fail.

In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, this year is the Year of the Horse. Deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers may have come away with a somewhat twisted view of the celebrations based on the BBC’s subtitle during the broadcast: “Welcome to the year of the whores. People around the globe celebrate.” 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

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

Almonds or Apricot Kernels

Q: When is an apricot kernel not an apricot kernel?

A: When it’s an almond, as droves of Chinese grocery shoppers are learning to their dismay.

Apricot kernels have  long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat afflictions such as colds and coughs. Almonds have a similar flavor, but are not believed to have the same medicinal value. So, Chinese grocery shoppers were dismayed to learn that the “American big apricot kernels” they’d been buying from retailers like Walmart for years were nothing more than common American almonds.

According to the Global Times, the misunderstanding is a result of a translation error that dates back to the 1970s. When the Almond Board of California began marketing their products in China, at first they used several different translations for the word “almond:”

  • xingren, or “apricot kernels”
  • badanmu, or “almonds”
  • biantaoren, or “flat peach kernels”

“Xingren” was the translation that stuck around, and most if not all Chinese consumers believed they were, in fact, buying apricot kernels.

Walmart shopper Zhao Hong told the Global Times:

“But when I heard that the nuts I bought are in fact almonds, I felt I’d been cheated…”The translation misled me, and I thought the almonds were apricot kernels from the US.”

She wasn’t the only one taken aback. The Chinese government was, too. The decades-old translation error only came to light in 2009, when the China National Food Industry Association tried to create an industry standard for apricot kernels. Weng Yangyang, secretary-general of the Specialized Committee for Roasted Seeds and Nuts, said the committee was “shocked when the ABC told us the ‘American big apricot kernels’ are not apricot kernels, and so have no association with the compilation of the industry standards.”

Even worse, “American big apricot kernels” go for several times the price of actual Chinese apricot kernels, with prices buoyed by the fact that produce from America is often believed to be superior. Plus, almonds are naturally bigger and thus have an advantage over real apricot kernels, as Meng Xianwu, director of the Working Committee of Apricot Kernels at the Association of Cash Forest of China under the State Forestry Administration, explained:

“Almonds can be easily puffed up during processing, while apricot kernels will be broken during the process. Consumers naturally would choose the bigger ones over the small ones.”

All of this goes to show how important it is to get your product names translated correctly the first time. The translation error may have given California almonds an advantage in the past, but it remains to be seen what will happen to their sales once the mistake is corrected.

 

“Guardians of the Galaxy” Chinese Translation Fail 

You’d think that if you were distributing one of this year’s biggest blockbuster movies in a market the size of China, you’d be willing to spend the money to get a good Chinese translation.

Or not. Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” was released in China last week, and apparently the subtitles got lost in translation. China Daily called reception of the film “lukewarm,” citing poor translation as one reason:

Weibo user “Gudabaihua,” who has become popular for uploading and subtitling video clips on social media, said he hasidentified at least 80 translation mistakes in the Chinesesubtitles. “Aside from a lot of mistranslations, the subtitles failedto show the original feel of the movie, such as jokes, puns andhomophones. We cannot help but doubt the professionalism of the translator.”

A few of the highlights, via The Mary Sue:

  • When other characters insult Rocket by calling him “weasel” or “rodent,” the Chinese subtitles merely say “small raccoon.”
  • “We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy, b***!” was translated “We’re the Guardians of the Galaxy, slut!”
  • “Turd blossom” became “big face.”
  • “Pelvic sorcery” became “rhetoric sorcery.”
  • Instead of teaching people how to dance, Kevin Bacon teaches them how to “twist a**.”

Humor, jokes and puns are all notoriously difficult to translate into another language and another culture. However, it’s certainly not impossible. And when your product is entertainment, you can’t afford to have your translators miss the punchline.  Despite the errors, Wikipedia notes that China is the third-highest international market for the film — but how much better would it have done if Chinese viewers felt properly catered to?

Marketing messages, product packaging and other business communications can suffer from the same sorts of problems. That’s why it’s so important to get the job done right the first time. At K International, our experienced, professional translators translate your company’s voice into your customer’s language, so they can laugh with you (when applicable), not at you!

Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by theglobalpanorama

A Latin Translation Error, Carved in Stone 

The public library in Moorestown, New Jersey has an admirable motto: “We confirm all things twice.” After the unveiling of their new building this week, the staff there is probably wishing they’d lived up to those words.

The designs for the building included a Latin translation of the library’s motto, carved into two stone medallions on the building. Unfortunately, the translation was  hopelessly wrong, and nobody bothered to confirm it even once.  The error wasn’t uncovered until after the building was complete and the motto was quite literally carved in stone.  In the words of the great philosopher Homer J. Simpson: “D’oh!”

The translation used on the library walls was “‘nos secundus coniecto omnia,” which Google translates as “We second-guess all” and anyone who actually speaks Latin knows is just a jumbled mess.

The building’s designers can’t even blame technology for the error; head architect Rick Ragan admitted in the Daily Mail that the botched translation “was attempted by a staff member who looked through a Latin dictionary.”

Ragan continued:

“We’ve looked at the definition of the words. It says that the verb says, ‘think, include, conclude, judge and confirm. But Google’s version, and I’m old enough to admit that I’ve never translated anything on Google or conjugated (anything). Their version is that ‘We all second-guess.”

The Daily Mail also has an excellent breakdown of all the things wrong with the translation:

“While ‘nos’ can mean ‘we’, it is in fact unnecessary because verbs in Latin contain who is doing them in the way the word ends. Coniecto – the verb in the sentence – in fact means ‘I conclude’ or ‘I guess’. The ‘we’ form would be ‘coniectamus’. Likewise, ‘secundus’ is an adjective meaning ‘second’, but even in conjunction with a verb meaning guess, does not mean ‘second-guess’. The correct way to render ‘we confirm all things twice’ would be ‘bis verificamus omnia‘.”

Ragan’s firm will now be paying for stonecutter to fix the medallions, as well as to correct some missing Roman numerals on other parts of the facade. A quick phone call to the nearest Latin professor would have saved them quite a bit of trouble and embarrassment.

If you’re thinking of translating any of your business communications by “looking through a dictionary,” stop. Do not pass go.  Do not collect $100. Call us and get your message properly translated!

The Milk Port Translation Fiasco

Faking an interview is always a poor journalistic practice, to say the least — but if you’re going to make up quotes, don’t rely on Google Translate. A Turkish newspaper learned that lesson the hard way this week after it fabricated a huge chunk of an interview with American scholar Noam Chomsky.

The interview, published in English in Yeni Safak, contained the following quotes, apparently translated into English using Google Translate.

“This complexity in the Middle East, do you think the Western states flapping because of this chaos? Contrary to what happens when everything that milk port, enters the work order, then begins to bustle in the West. I’ve seen the plans works.”

What? Either you love Chomsky or you hate him, but either way you have to admit he’s more eloquent than that. Read more

Japanese Company’s Translation Fail Goes Viral

A Japanese company’s new mascot gained them a boatload of Internet attention last month- but probably not the kind they were aiming for.

In October, Fukushima Industries introduced a new mascot in the form of a cutesy flying egg with an indeterminate gender identity and an eerily chipper demeanor. The mascot’s name? Fukuppy, which was apparently an attempt to meld the company name with the last 3 letters of the English word “happy.” Read more