Imagine you are in a restaurant on the terrace. You decide to look at the menu, but you get confused by the names of dishes. You are wondering if this is a joke for April Fools’ Day. Then you realize that the menu has been poorly translated! We all have seen a feeble translation once in our lives, and it either makes us laugh or cry in despair. 🤦♀️
As it’s International Translation Day today, we would like to show how essential human translators are, especially when it comes to spotting and correcting unfamous “translation fails.” Acolad Community and its members have compiled the most epic translation fails to show you why translating without a human translator is out of the question:
- Just a week ago I saw a translation of the unit “Nm3/h” from English in Russian as “normal m3/h” (нормальный м3/ч)
- Restaurant menus provide a wealth of these. Here’s one: it was supposed to be “soya bean shoots“, but it was translated as “germs“.
- In a glossy and very expensive brochure for our local Conseil Régional the sentence “6 entrepreneurs partent en Chine” was translated “6 undertakers leave for China”. Not 100% accurate.
- After the buzz of Bella Thorne on OnlyFans, I have seen that on Twitter (Link to the image here). How do OnlyFans call the members’ fans on their French version? Ventilateurs ??? For sure, they dont invest the money they earn in translations.
- During a conference about the security of lifting devices, the speaker talks about risks, “… durante il telescopaggio del braccio (della gru) …” – The interpreter: “… pendant l’amour à la télévision ….“
- On a chocolate bar, maaaany years ago: “May contain traces of nuts” > “Puede contener trazas de tuercas“
- From yesterday’s Evening Standard (Link to the image here). In English it sounds as if the bars will be happy to serve anyone who’s so drunk they’re on the floor (lying down as opposed to ‘standing up’). I would guess this is a literal translation from something like ‘debout’, when maybe it could do with a bit more gloss in the target language eg ‘at the bar’. Maybe it’s gone through a few iterations eg the Standard picked it up from a newswire and didn’t look into it further.
- The self-scanners in a supermarket chain where I lived before used to greet you in English with, “Welcome, valued customer!“, which is kind of weird but not unusual in American marketing speak. However, the Spanish said, “¡Benvenido, cliente evaluado!” “Welcome evaluated customer!”
- There is an Italian organization for promoting women in business called “Miss in Action“. It appears to be a cute play on the term “missing in action”, but it’s definitely not cute to Americans. “Missing in Action” refers to soldiers who were lost during a war and may still be alive somewhere, possibly in labor camps. To an American, “Miss in Action” sounds like someone is laughing at these soldiers.
- I just saw someone share on linked in a translation for a heartburn remedy with the caption ‘like a fireman coming in your mouth!’ Not sure if it’s real but that is both awful and hilarious!!
- Machine translated Facebook update. Content translated FI > EN follows: Win a baby gift basket for the baby caring for you (Link to the image here). The prize includes diapers and aids, among other things, to make a diaper wreath as well as a gift card. In Finnish it says that the gift basket is for the baby who is taking care of his/her parents. AND in the second paragraph that price includes diapers and AIDS!! It is horrible so many ways
- “Pain free hair removal” translated in French as “retrait indolore de cheveux” instead of “poils” (Link to the image here).
- „Our steel power poles are pregnant landmarks in many countries.“
- I once proof-read a translation of some marketing blurb for a trade show in Lyon, in which businesses were invited to come and “expose themselves“.
- And then there’s the inevitable “raped carrots” in menus on blackboards all over France…
Fancy more epic translation fails? Here they are below: