This Week in Translation Errors

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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.”

Just to clarify: the Chinese New Year is traditionally celebrated with gifts, traditional foods, spending time with family, parades and  fireworks.  Prostitution, not so much.  For more, see 8 Fun Facts About the Chinese New Year.

BBC, we expected better of you (though with your past history, maybe those expectations were a bit unrealistic). So far, the news organization has not commented on the error.

Meanwhile, the Winter Olympics in Sochi have already had at least one Olympic-sized translation fail…menus boasting a variety of foods and drinks to be served “in the a–.”

Apparently, when it came time to translate the menus for English-speaking spectators, that’s how the Russian abbreviation for “in assortment” got translated. Awkward.  And not exactly appetizing, either.

If you’ve been to Russia before, there’s a good chance you’ve already encountered this particular mistranslation. In fact, the “ice cream” picture (above) that’s been circulating has been debunked as an older image, not from Sochi. Still, the “assorted” lemonades and cakes (below, from Twitter) do appear legit.