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
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
One of my Chinese friends thinks this is Louis Vuitton’s inspiration for their Year of the Monkey jewelry. 🙈🙉🙊 pic.twitter.com/8JNvJwaPV1
— Christine Lu (@christinelu) January 13, 2016
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