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Translation Gone Wrong: 7 Big Translation Fails from 2016 

2016 is over halfway gone. Let’s look back at some of this year’s best examples of translation gone wrong  (so far).  This year, we have a little bit of everything, from menu translations that will kill your appetite to translation gaffes from major political candidates. Here are the biggest and funniest translation fails of 2016!

Translation Gone Wrong: In the Darkest Depths of Mordor Russia…

mordor

Who knew Led Zeppelin’s 1969 hit Ramble On was actually an ode to Russian girls? Well, you might have thought so, anyway, if you’d been using Google Translate to translate from Ukrainian into Russian in January 2016.  A glitch caused the service to translate “Russia” into “Mordor,” the fictional home of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings.

According to the BBC, the error came about due to a flurry of internet chatter following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Online commentators in the Ukraine began referring to Russia as “Mordor,” and  Google Translate picked up on it.

Translation Gone Wrong:  Fashion Brands Monkey Around in China


2016 was the Year of the Monkey, and Western fashion brands tried hard to cash in with special monkey-related merchandise. Unfortunately, some of their efforts got lost in translation. Consider, as seen in Business Insider, the “creepy” gold-finished and rhinestone-studded monkey necklace offered by Louis Vuitton, or the cartoonish red-and-gold monkey keychain offered by Dior. Both were trashed on Chinese fashion blogs. So was a Givenchy “Year of the Monkey” T-shirt which featured what Chinese fashion blogger Gogoboi called “orangutans” in eyeshadow. (I think it’s actually a pair of baboons, but his point still stands. Traditional Chinese monkeys are usually macaques or gibbons. Baboons live in Africa.)

The moral of this story? Don’t think that designing to make a cultural reference will generate enough goodwill amongst consumers that they won’t care how ugly your merchandise is! Read more

6 Ridiculously Bad Translations from Amazon Prime Day

If you’re an Amazon Prime junkie, I don’t need to tell you that Tuesday was Prime Day. Your bank balance is probably enough of a reminder. For everyone else, Prime Day is Amazon’s self-created sales holiday, with deals on just about everything.

Amazon itself excels at localization. And we’ve held them up as an example of a company that gets it right.

But that’s not always true of the third-party sellers that offer their products in the Amazon marketplace. Product descriptions are provided by the sellers, not by Amazon. All too often, the sellers lack either the will or the resources to make quality translations a priority.

And the results can be hilarious, as these 6 examples of bad Prime Day translations prove. Here are a few of our favorites:

That Amorous Feeling

I mean, really, who wouldn’t want to adorn their house with a “decorative fish net of strong Mediterranean Sea amorous feelings?” Read more

Translation Value

Translation: Price is what you pay, Value is what you get

Picture the scene, it’s the weekend, the sun is shining, not a cloud in the sky, a perfect day for a leisurely drive. About an hour into your jaunt around the local country roads, you notice a strange clunking sound coming from under the bonnet. It looks like a trip to the garage is in order. Once you get home you call the guy (or girl) you always call when your car needs attention. You drop it off at the garage and wait for the workshop to call, what are the first three things you want to learn from that call?… Most people would likely answer along the lines of “can they fix it, what is it going to cost and how long is it going to take”, probably in that order.

Now you are probably wondering what going for a drive and suffering an impending breakdown has to do with anything, well I’ll get to that. About a year ago I was talking to a chap in a pub, the best stories always start with that line right? His name is Dave, you wouldn’t say he was anything out of the ordinary, casually dressed, glasses, drives a van, all very run of the mill, he wouldn’t mind me saying that he’d probably agree. Anyway, I sat at the bar waiting for my friends to finally show up and just happened to strike up a conversation with him. He told me about how he works in a garage and has done probably longer than I’ve been alive, another classic line from the book of pub stories huh. Dave’s customers go through exactly the same ritual as I had you imagine at the beginning, but when it comes to that phone call, his customers have slightly different expectations. Read more

honda kona translation fail

The Hyundai KONA: A Translation Fail In 3 Languages 

Naming a product for an international audience is harder than it looks. Exhibit A: the Hyundai KONA. The “subcompact crossover,” released last year in the UK,  introduces a distinctive “rugged” and “funky” design. Unfortunately, however, the name “KONA” has unfortunate sound-alikes and double meanings that make it a translation fail in more than one European language.

Why KONA?

Why did Hyundai choose the name “KONA,” anyway? Named after the Kona district in Hawaii, it’s meant to appeal to adventurous, highly-caffeinated female consumers looking for small SUVs. As a company spokesman explained in the Korea Herald,

“Images that come to mind when thinking of Kona are dynamic marine leisure sports and the mild aroma of Kona coffee, which also represents the customer base of small SUVs.”

Alas for Hyundai, those pleasant associations are not quite universal.

KONA in Polish: “Dying in Pain”

In Polish, the word “konać” means “to be dying.” Guess what the third person singular of “konać” is? That’s right, it’s “kona.” So, in Polish, “Hyundai KONA” can be read as “Hyundai is dying,” or even “Hyundai is dying in pain.”

Polish speakers represent a sizeable market, both within the UK and within the EU as a whole. There are over 55 million Polish speakers around the world, and it’s the  sixth biggest language in the EU by number of native speakers. In the UK, 546,000 speak Polish, making it our most common immigrant language.  “Hyundai is dying” is not exactly the message you want people to have, even in the back of their minds, when they’re car shopping.

KONA in Portuguese: Censored emoticonCensored emoticonCensored emoticon

In Portuguese, the situation is even worse. As Carscoops points out, in Portuguese, the soundalike word “cona” is a rather crude term for a part of the female anatomy.  And in fact, this isn’t even the first time an auto manufacturer has had this issue – Opel had to rename their “Ascona” in the Portuguese market for the same reason.

Fortunately, Hyundai has announced that the KONA will be marketed as the Hyundai Kauai in Portugal.

However, rebranding in Portugal may not be enough. “Cona” means the same thing in Galician as it does in Portuguese, so you can add  Spain’s 2.4 million Galician speakers to the list of people who are likely to be some combination of amused, horrified, and offended.

Also, there are significant Portuguese immigrant communities in other EU countries, like Andorra, France, and Switzerland. And there are at least 107,000 Portuguese speakers living in the UK. All of those Portuguese speakers outside of Portugal will still be getting the full KONA experience. Read more

Funny Sign Translations: 30 More Signs We Didn’t Translate

Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs . . . but sometimes they get lost in translation! We’ve scoured the Internet for funny sign translations, and this is what we found. We certainly didn’t translate any of these, but we hope they give you a laugh:

Well, that’s not helpful

Lost in translation

If this place catches fire, we’re in trouble…

What AM I supposed to do then?

tsinc2x

Imgur/ JaromirAzarov

I’ll just stand here looking bored, I suppose . . .

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

datnbyh

As if pressing the big red button wasn’t tempting enough, pressing this particular big red button appears to bring on the apocalypse. You know you want to push it, just to see what happens. Don’t you?

Bad trip, man, bad trip!

kywqwrh

Sounds like someone should have passed on the brown acid…

I think I’ve lost my appetite. . .

wyciqf2-1

Imgur/JaromirAzarov

I’m not sure what they serve here, but I don’t think I want it for breakfast.

Brilliant idea

 6rw1gul

Just what everyone needs after a night out of Indian food! Someone is going to make a fortune off this. Read more

28 Hilarious Movie Title Translations

Sometimes, the hardest part of a movie to translate is the title, and the results can be unintentionally hilarious. To prove it, here are 28 movie title translations, translated back into English. Can you guess the original titles? The answers are below the fold.

  1. He’s A Ghost!
  2. Vaseline
  3. The Hole of Malkovich
  4. Captain Supermarket
  5. Is The Spy Capable Or Not? 
  6. 17-Year-Old Girl’s Medical Chart
  7. The Teeth from the Sea
  8. Satan Female Soldier
  9. I’m Drunk, and You’re a Prostitute
  10. Run! Run! Cloudzilla!
  11. I Will Marry a Prostitute to Save Money 
  12. The Explosive Woman 
  13. The Desire to Win
  14. Sex Crimes
  15. Gangsters, Sex, and Karaoke 
  16. The Boy Who Drowned in Chocolate 
  17.  Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses 
  18. Multinationals Go Home! 
  19. Action Skyscraper 
  20. Die Hard: Mega Hard 
  21. Electronic Murderer 
  22. Mr. Cat Poop
  23. His Great Device Makes Him Famous
  24. The Night Of The Cold Noses
  25. Super Power Dare Die Team
  26. Dimwit Surges Forth
  27. The Lady in Yellow
  28. Interplanetary Unusual Attacking Team

Read more

Bad Translations From the Food Industry: 7 Sickening Translation Fails

Bad translations are bad business.  You might think it doesn’t matter that much if a translation is perfect. Google Translate is good enough. Hey, it’s free! They’ll get the idea, right? Wrong. Bad translations not only make your company look stupid, they can also insult, offend or even disgust your potential customers. To prove it, here are 7 food industry translation fails guaranteed to make you sick to your stomach.

*Disclaimer: K International obviously had nothing to do with any of these translations.**

Hope you weren’t eating…

Bad Translations From the Food Industry: Smell of What?!?

smell-of-urine-yellow-croaker

Why would anyone want to order fish that smells like pee? As it turns out, “Quishan smell of urine yellow croaker” is a common but unfortunate translation for “Qíshān sàozi huángyú 岐山臊子黄鱼,” a popular Chinese seafood dish. The picture above is one of several different photos circulating online with the same translation.

There’s got to be an explanation for this, right?

Yes! According to Language Log, the Chinese word “sàozi” can have several different meanings depending on tone. One of those meanings is, in fact, “smell of urine.”

But that’s not the correct meaning in this context, of course. Here’s a better translation, again courtesy of Language Log:

“It turns out that sàozi 臊子 is a type of sauce made from minced pork cooked with vinegar, red pepper, and many other seasonings. So a better translation would be “yellow croaker with minced pork sauce à la Qishan”.

That sounds much more appealing!

Photo: Engrish.com Read more

bad video game translations

8 Hilariously Bad Video Game Translations

Those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s remember when video games were the new hotness. Everyone wanted an NES or a Sega Genesis, and we were all so enthralled with the magic of pressing buttons that nobody even cared how bad the dialogue was.

And often, it was bad. Many games were made in Japan first. Translation wasn’t always a top priority. In fact, according to Wikipedia, “Early translations were sometimes “literally done by a “programmer with a phrase book.”  The end result? Some hilariously bad video game translations!

With that in mind, here’s a look back at 8 of the funniest crimes against translation from the video game industry:

Ikari Warriors: Take Good Rest


The end of Nintendo’s famously difficult game Ikari Warriors  had an unexpected reward for the lucky few who were dedicated and skilled enough t0 beat the game: an epic translation fail.

The closing message reads: “You have accomplished the mission.” (So far so good.)
“You are the very prevailer that protect right and justice.” (Thanks . . .  I think.)
I would express my sincere. Thanks to You. Take good rest! Read more

Korean Food, Lost in Translation

Awkward English translations are exceedingly common in Korea.  So common, in fact, that there is even a word to describe them: Konglish. “Konglish” translations of Korean restaurant menus are often especially heinous.
Kim Seong-kon, a professor of English at Seoul National University, has collected a list of them for the Korea Herald:

Preposterous English food translations include “lacquer poison chicken broth with ginseng (hanbang samgye tang).” Customers will surely be intimidated by this poisoned chicken dish that may threaten their lives. In fact, this dish, which should be translated to “boiled chicken with ginseng” or “chicken stew with ginseng,” is not dangerous at all, but very good for your stamina… Examples of embarrassing translations could seemingly go on forever.

Other highlights:

  • mountain not yet the pebble pot boiled rice with assorted mixtures (sanchae dolsot bibimbab, a vegetable hot pot)
  • mother hand tasty director of a bureau (omma son mat cheong guk jang, a soybean stew)
  • green pea jelly vegetable nothing needle (cheongpo mook yachae moochim, a green pea jelly salad)

Most of these botched translations are the result of attempting to translate word to word from Korean to English. As you can see from the results, it’s not always that simple and for accuracy’s sake it’s important to have someone with a working knowledge of both languages.

In an attempt to make Korean food sound more palatable, South Korea’s national language institute just released its first batch of official translations for restaurants. With verified English translations for 200 common South Korean dishes, officials hope this will make eating out in Korea easier for tourists.

According to the Wall Street Journal, however, the new translations come with problems of their own:

Many of the descriptions appear too brief. Take kal-guksu, a popular wheat-flour pasta soup with fish stock base. The new list calls it noodle soup, but that doesn’t reveal the type of noodle used in the dish. In Korean cuisine, there are many types of noodle dishes, in variable thickness, served chilled or in hot soup with different condiments and spices.

Meat dishes could also use some embellishment beyond listed definitions such as short rib soup, pork backbone stew, beef bone soup, ox bone soup and ox knee soup.

Still, that’s better than leaving tourists wondering if they’re being poisoned, or whether or not government officials taste like chicken!

What’s oddest menu translation you’ve ever seen? Share it in the comments!

Additional

I really don’t know what this video is, it has nothing to do with translation but I found it when I was researching this post. This guy’s laugh is hilarious.

4 Cringeworthy Social Media Translation Fails 

Thanks to social media, businesses, brands, and celebrities can now easily communicate with followers all over the world. But sometimes, their posts get lost in translation. Need some examples? Here are four cringe-worthy social media translation fails.

These unfortunate incidents demonstrate why knowledgeable translation help is essential for communicating with a global audience.

Maki-san and the Cursed Sushi

social media translation fail sushiIn 2017, Singapore-based sushi chain Maki-san released a special sushi roll called the “Maki Kita”  to commemorate Singapore’s National Day. The first two words of Singapore’s national anthem are “Mari kita.” So, the product name is obviously meant to be a play on words. Unfortunately, changing that “r” to a “k” had a major impact on the meaning in Malay. “Maki kita” means “curse us.”

Can you blame the restaurant’s fans for doing just that?  The Instagram post was removed, but Mothership got screenshots. It looks like it was a rough day for whoever was managing the brand’s social media accounts.

But they really should have checked the translation. Malay is one of Singapore’s four official languages. 13% of the Singaporean population speaks it home.

Probably the best comment came from Instagram user Zaimondok, who wrote:

@rollwithmakisan this is why you need a diverse team. And in the office working on strategy not just the service staff so you can get halal certificates.

Ouch, but . . . He’s right, you know. At least about the need for a diverse marketing strategy team or some translation help. Read more