Imagine that you’re at the restaurant: you decide to look at a menu in another language. You’re wondering in which language it is because you can’t stop laughing at all nonsense and mistakes – or asking yourself if you’re the victim of a prank. In the end, you eventually realize that it is a feeble quality translation!
Raise your hand if you have already been in that comical situation! We all have read bad translations once in our lives, and they either make us laugh or cry in despair. As it’s the 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 why you should always have a human translator for post-editing texts:
- Restaurant menus provide a wealth of these. Here’s one: it was supposed to be “soya bean shoots,” but it is translated here as “germs” (meaning bacteria).
- 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. (undertakers are funeral directors)
- After the buzz of Bella Thorne on OnlyFans, I have seen that on Twitter.
How does OnlyFans call the members’ fans on their French version? Ventilateurs?
For sure, they don’t 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) …
… pendant l’amour à la télévision ….😅
It was about the “telescoping of the boom (crane)”
- On a chocolate bar, a very long time ago:
“May contain traces of nuts”> “Puede contener trazas de tuercas“
(Tuercas are screws in Spanish and these two words nuts and screws are the same for tuercas)
- From the Evening Standard on September 15th (click here to open the file)
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 instead of ‘standing up’). I would guess this is a literal translation from something like ‘debout.’ Maybe it could do with a bit more gloss in the target language, e.g. ‘at the bar.’ Perhaps it’s gone through a few iterations, the Standard may have 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!”. It is 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 not appealing to Americans. “Missing in Action” refers to soldiers who were lost during the 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 saw someone share on Linkedin 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” (Click here to open the file)
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 in so many ways.
- “Pain-free hair removal” translated in French as “retrait indolore de cheveux” instead of “poils” (click here to open the file)
Hairs = poils ≠ Hair = cheveux in French
- “Our steel power poles are pregnant landmarks in many countries.” (The French word “prégnant” means important, significant. Here, it says that these poles are expecting babies…)
- 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” (meaning showing the most private parts of the body…)
- And then there’s the inevitable “raped carrots” in menus on blackboards all over France (it should have been “grated” for “râpés” in French)
Now it’s evident that machine translation only is never enough. We will never do any translations without human translators, even the shortest post on social media or the smallest CTA button on a website! 😉
What is the most epic translation fail you have ever seen?