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.” 

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happy birthday

Our Website is 18 Today

Our website is 18 years old today. Not the content or design I mean it’s been 18 years since we launched the first version of This makes me feel old. We had to have the dash because a logistics firm in NYC registered first, something which pains me every time I have to type or say the domain. Its a bit like when you have to use where XX is some random number because somebody else got there first.

Originally it was Dermot’s idea. I remember vividly when he said to me, “you know what Rich? This internet thing looks like it’s really going to take off, even Pepsi Cola has a website… I reckon we should create one”.

So we did. It was 1997, Titanic was on at the cinema, the Spice Girls had just made it big in America and at the end of August the whole nation stopped and watched the horrific news that Sunday morning finding out Princess Diana had died. Read more

5 Epic Literary Translations

It’s no secret that literature can be difficult to translate. That said, some books are definitely more challenging than others. Here are five novels that required epic levels of time and/or devotion from their translators.

1) Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace

From a translator’s perspective, David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece could not have been more appropriately named. At one thousand pages of prose, with footnotes and 388 endnotes, the length alone makes translation an intimidating prospect. On top of that, there’s Wallace’s stream-of-consciousness prose style, packed with sly humour, allusions and hints that need to come through in the target language if readers are to have any chance of making sense of the tangled plot.

Nonetheless, Infinite Jest has been translated into six languages: German, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish and French. The French translation just came out this year. It took two translators a dozen years to finish! Read more

What This Rare Whistling Language Tells Us About the Brain

A new study of a whistling language is  changing what scientists thought they new about how the brain processes speech.

You know how to whistle, don’t you? Not like this, you don’t…unless of course, you happen to have been raised in the tiny Turkish town of Kuşköy. Here, steep mountains and deep valleys divide villagers. For centuries, a whistled language called kuş dili, or “bird language,” connected them, echoing over the rough terrain.

Whistled sound travels further than speech, so this unusual adaptation made it easier for villagers to keep in touch, As Onur Güntürkün, the lead author of a new study on kuş dili, explained to Ars Technica:

“When you’re living there, you recognise why it’s a good landscape for whistled Turkish. It’s a very mountainous region, very steep with deep valleys, and to communicate with your neighbours, you have to climb down and up again.”

Read more

Translation services in Chinese

Chinese Language Information

The Chinese language belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family. More than 1.3 billion of people speak Chinese with the majority of the Chinese speaking population concentrated only in a small number of countries: China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The written Chinese language characters are not just pictographs (which make up less than 5%), but they are highly stylised and carry much abstract meaning. The total number of the characters is not known accurately, 50,000+ is a good approximation. Read more

The Great K International Bake Off

The Great K International Bake Off

Along with the entire population of Britain (apparently), we’re getting our ‘bake on’ in homage to the national treasure of a tv show, The BBC’s Great British Bake Off.

A big thanks goes out to Sherrien and our sales team, the masterminds who came up with (shamelessly plagiarised) the idea. So without further ado it’s time to “Stop touching your dough balls” and “Get those lady’s fingers soggy!”.

Bring on the bake! Read more

International marketing – adverts on a train line

7 International Marketing Campaigns That Failed to Translate

We’re inundated with marketing campaigns every hour of every day – from billboard advertisements to events and the articles we read. But there’s a fine line between a campaign that succeeds and a campaign that fails to resonate with its intended audience.

Companies will often spend millions on marketing, with even the tiniest details (such as phrases and hair colour) carefully considered.

The problem comes when a brand decides to expand internationally and fails to carefully adapt its messaging for an international audience. At the very least this is likely to result in an unsuccessful campaign. But in many cases it can result in a hugely damaging (if sometimes quite amusing) cultural blunder. Read more

Coffee Around the World

Coffee makes the world go round, right? It’s the second-most-popular hot beverage in the world, and everywhere you go there’s another way to drink it. Here’s  the lowdown on  how people drink coffee around the world. Read more

Translated fast food

Fast Food, Localised

Food, even fast food, is a uniquely cultural experience. To be successful in a new country, all businesses need a localisation strategy to appeal to the people who live there, and that’s especially true in the food industry. Let’s take a trip around the world with four popular fast food chains and see how it’s done! Read more

international sporting rivalries

9 International Sporting Rivalries to get Pulses Racing

The Chicago-based writer Sydney J. Harris once explained the difference between patriotism and nationalism as being the difference between being proud of what you country has done, and being proud of your country no matter what it does. As a mindset (and, indeed, as a world view), the latter description sounds a difficult person to be stuck chatting to at a party. In sport, though, all rules of polite society go out of the window, and virtually every fan of an international event – team or individual – can become a jingoistic nationalist while spectating.

And, aside from those silly flags people insist on attaching to their wing mirrors during football World Cups, why not? Many sporting events bring to the fore rivalries which diplomacy otherwise keeps under wraps, and (usually) harmlessly enough. Many of the great rivalries between sporting nations are indicative of historical, cultural or political differences, and while geographical proximity is usually the root of rivalries between domestic teams (English football is the home of local derbies, what with Arsenal and Spurs playing in nearby parts of north London, and Liverpool and Everton’s grounds virtually opposite one another), when global politics is added into the mix, international meetings can come down to more than simple petty one-upmanship: it becomes matter of national pride. Or embarrassment.

Strong rivalries add to the excitement of sports and, as a fan, there can be nothing more satisfying than gaining success over your most hated betes noires. Presented here nine of the fiercest and deepest-rooted international sporting rivalries. Read more

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