Medical Translation Gone Wrong: 7 Devastating Medical Translation Errors

“First do no harm” is a difficult promise to keep when language barriers interfere with communication between doctors and patients.  Medical translation and interpreting can break down those barriers. However, quality is of the utmost importance when lives hang in the balance. These examples of medical translation errors show why it’s important to use highly skilled and specially trained medical translators and interpreters.

Is this the most expensive medical translation error? Willie Ramirez and the $71 million word

Willie Ramirez was only 18 and out with friends when he suddenly developed a splitting headache. By the time he got to his girlfriend’s house, he was barely conscious.  They rushed him to the hospital, but he woke up paralyzed. He will never walk again.  A brain bleed left him a quadriplegic for life.

But it didn’t have to be that way. The haemorrhage should have been treatable, but the Ramirez family did not have access to a Spanish interpreter. So, when they told the emergency room doctors that they believed Willie was “intoxicado,” he was treated for a drug overdose. As Health Affairs explains, “intoxicado” is not the same as “intoxicated.”

Among Cubans, “intoxicado” is kind of an all encompassing word that means there’s something wrong with you because of something you ate or drank. I ate something and now I have hives or an allergic reaction to the food or I’m nauseous.

Doctors only discovered the haemorrhage after days of improper treatment. By then, it was too late. The hospital, which should have provided a professional interpreter, is liable for a settlement of approximately 71 million dollars to pay for Willie’s care for the rest of his life.  Read more

10 Language and Translation Stories for January

Can you believe we’re already one month into 2018? So, what’s been going on the world of languages? Settle in, get cozy and let’s find out. Here are 10 stories about language and translation that are worth reading and sharing.

The National Book Foundation adds award for translated literature

Only about 3% of literature published in America is translated from another language.

In response, the National Book Foundation is adding a new award to its list: The National Book Award for Translated Literature. According to Executive Director Lisa Lucas,

“We want American readers to deeply value an inclusive, big-picture point of view, and the National Book Award for Translated Literature is part of a commitment to that principle. The addition of this award lends crucial visibility to works that have the power to touch us as American readers in search of broadened perspective.”

No, Google Translate is not ready to replace humans

A generation that grew up on science fiction is still eagerly awaiting for their universal translators. But Google Translate is nowhere near that capable. Read this article from the Atlantic and follow along as translator Douglas Hofstadter puts Google Translate’s deep neural networks the test. Then, watch as it fails miserably.  Score one for the humans!

Why are so there so many bad menu translations?

When it comes to unfortunate translation mistakes, foreign menus are amongst the most frequent offenders. Everything from roasted children to fried crap has been spotted on translated menus. In this article from Atlas Obscura, culinary translator Emily Monaco digs deep to figure out why so many food translations are simply unappetizing.

Facebook’s machine translation turns “Métis” into “half-breed”

Facebook had to apologize last week after its machine translation program translated the word “Métis” as “half-breed.” The Métis people are a Canadian group descended from First Nations and European settlers, with their own specific and distinct culture. The word “half-breed”, of course, is a racial slur.

Overall, not a great week for machine translation.

Read more

Translating Brand Names for International Success

Should you translate your brand name or business name when you enter a foreign language market? What about product names?  There’s not one right answer, but the following questions can help in the decision.

Is your brand name already a word in the target language?

When it comes to translating company names and product names, one of the first considerations is whether or not the name is the same as or similar to an existing word in the target language. Words that are spelled or pronounced the same as your brand name in the target language bring their own meanings and connotations. These can either work for your brand or against it.

For example, consider the famous case of Clairol’s “Mist Stick” curling iron. It sold quite well in the United States but fell flat in the German market, where “mist” means “manure.

Canadian Mist and Irish Mist whiskeys were also hard to sell in Germany. Nobody wants their whiskey to taste like crap.

Obviously, if your brand name means something offensive or unsavory in the target language, you’ll need to consider renaming it. 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

ursula k Le Guin quotes about translation

10 Ursula K Le Guin Quotes About Languages and Translation 

American writer Ursula K. Le Guin died on Monday, 22 January 2018. She was best known as a fantasy and science fiction author, of course. But did you know she was a translator, too? Before her death, she had four published translations to her name:

  • Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral.
  • Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way, although Le Guin described this as “a rendition, not a translation.”
  • Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was, by Angélica Gorodischer.
  • Squaring the Circle: A Pseudotreatise of Urbogony Fantastic Tales by Gheorghe Săsărman.

Le Guin loved languages:  writing, playing with words, translating and inventing new ones. She wasn’t merely a powerful storyteller; she also had an incredible insight into the nature of language and communication. With that in mind, here are ten quotes from Ursula Le Guin for translators and language lovers alike to enjoy.

Ursula Le Guin on how writing relates to translation:

 

“Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat… where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.”Tweet: Ursula Le Guin on writing and translation:

Read more

Translating Trump, Part 3: How to Insult Developing Countries in 10 Different Languages

Once again, the President of the United States is making translators’ lives difficult. Last week, they faced a new dilemma – how to translate President Trump’s preferred epithet for certain developing countries. 

Even American newscasters had problems figuring out how to handle the profanity. But news organizations in other countries had an even bigger problem on their hands. How do you translate what President Trump allegedly said accurately in a language that doesn’t have a direct equivalent? And how do you balance accuracy in translation with differing levels of cultural acceptance of profanity?   Read more

15 Powerful Translation Apps and Devices for Travelers in 2018

You’d love to see the world, but fear holds you back. You’re afraid of being isolated in a foreign country, unable to speak the language. How are you going to communicate? Charades? Well, stop worrying, and book those tickets! Here are 15 futuristic translation apps and devices for travelers in 2018 to help you get your point across.

This post was originally published in 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and to include new apps and devices. 

Best Translation Apps: Google TranslateTranslation Apps 1

When it comes to translation apps, Google Translate is obviously the elephant in the room — and for good reason. It supports more languages than the competition, and its comprehensive feature set makes it especially well-suited for travelers.

Languages: Google Translate offers varying degrees of support for 103 languages:

  • Type to translate: 103 languages
  • Offline support: 52 languages
  • Real-Time Video translation: 30 languages
  • Camera Mode: 37 Languages
  • Speech-to-speech translation: 32 languages
  • Handwriting translation: 93 languages

See which features work with which languages here.

Cool Tricks: Translate signs, menus and other written content using your phone’s camera. Offline support for some languages, plus excellent integration with the Android operating system for translating text messages and websites.

Recently, Google added neural machine translation (NMT) for improved accuracy in some languages. And you can launch it with your voice using Google Assistant.

All this, and it’s free. Free is good.

How to Get It: Download it from the App Store or from Google Play. Read more

german translation service guide

German Translation Services: A Beginner’s Guide

Is your company in the market for German translation services? German translation offers numerous benefits for international businesses. For example:

  • German translation makes your business accessible to 95 million German native speakers around the world.
  • German is the most widely-spoken language in the European Union, and the German economy is the 4th largest in the world.
  • Almost 84 million Internet users speak German. Studies show that even if these Internet users can read English, it’s easier to sell to them in German.

Want to learn more? Read on for six essential facts about the German language, German translation services and marketing in Germany!

German is an official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Lichenstein.german translation services map

It’s also officially recognized in South Tyrol, Italy, and parts of Belgium.  Additionally, it’s an official language of the European Union and one of the three working languages of the European Commission.

And while German may be one of the most important languages of continental Europe, its influence isn’t limited to one continent. For example, German is still frequently used in Namibia, in Africa. German dialects are officially recognized in some parts of Brazil. Read more

Culture Guide for UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Western Asia is made up of a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. Abu Dhabi serves as the capital, with each emirate ruled by its own monarch.

The UAE offers a fascinating business environment. Of its 9.2 million residents, just 1.4 million are Emirati citizens – the other 7.8 million are expats. Around 120,000 of those expats are from the UK. The prevalence of expats in the UAE makes for an exciting melting pot of cultures, which this business culture guide seeks to help UK exporters navigate their way around. Read more

Funny Expressions for Sickness from Around the World 

It’s winter in the Northern hemisphere, and that can only mean one thing: you and everyone you know are either sick now,  just getting over being sick, or about to be sick. Maybe you have “a cold,” or a “frog in your throat,” or you’re just feeling a little “under the weather.” But have you ever thought about how strange those phrases might sound to someone who didn’t grow up hearing them?

And have you ever wondered how people describe being sick in other languages? Take a look at these metaphors and expressions for sickness from around the world.

Expressions for Sickness in English

Feeling “under the weather?”  This expression has nothing to do with the weather forecast.  In fact, it’s an old nautical term that made its way into common use. During long voyages, sick sailors and passengers would be sent below deck– literally “under the weather” – to recover.

Do you have “a frog in your throat?”  This phrase actually comes to us from 19th-century American English. It spread across the pond when an American company began selling their popular “Frog in Your Throat” cough lozenges in England.

Fun fact: No frogs were harmed in the making of “Frog in your Throat” cough lozenges. However, in the 17th century, holding a live frog in your mouth until the frog died was believed to cure a sore throat.

Perhaps a bout with the flu has left you “sick as a dog?” This phrase dates back to the 18th century and is probably derived from the familiar canine habit of eating random objects and vomiting them back up.

Oh, did that last bit leave you feeling a little “green around the gills?”  Where did that come from, anyway? People don’t have gills! Well, not anymore. However, in earlier centuries, English speakers sometimes referred to the lower part of the face as the “gills.” Read more