More Translation Gaffes and Blunders

By Slava
Oct 31, 2009 · 3 min
As long as mediocre effort is exerted when translating texts into other languages, then there will always be cultural translation gaffes, blunders, and faux pas. Professional translation companies and freelance translation services alike should do everything it takes to make sure that their human translation work doesn't end up looking like it was translated by a primitive software program.The Importance of Contextualization In any case, it's imperative for human translation companies to recognize the importance of contextualization in professional translation. In fact, it's so essential that it's better done while would-be translators are still studying at translation school or at least during the employee training period. Both translation theorists and translation service agents alike endorse this measure. University students that are taking up translation studies need to learn this fundamental lesson as soon as possible, especially those who most desperately need guidance and practice in this linguistic art. Conversely, failing to contextualize the message of a given text is one of the root causes of translation mistakes; i.e., it's the fastest way to ensure that your work is disjointed, inconsistent, and altogether self-contradictory.Translation Gaffes and Blunders
  • Hunt-Wesson promoted their Big John (a name already rife with innuendo) products to French Canada under the name "Gros Jos", which is slang for "Big Breasts" in that part of the world.
  • A sign in a Belgrade hotel elevator once advised visitors to move the cabin by pushing the button for the "wishing door". If "more persons" were to enter the cabin, then each of them should press the number for their "wishing floor". They will then be "driven" by "national order" while going in "alphabetically".
  • The American Midwest once showed off its "authentic" Mexican restaurant named "Chi-Chi's" to several Californian visitors. However, the Californians were in stitches once they found out the name of the establishment. Apparently, "Chi-Chi's" literally translates to "Breasts" in Mexican Spanish.
  • A Budapest zoo was able to correctly advise visitors to not feed the animals. However, their next warning—to give all suitable food to the guard on duty—had an amusing and unintentional meaning.
  • An airline in Copenhagen claims to take your bags and deliver them "in all directions" (which is what most airlines do anyway, but they don't necessarily advertise it to their customers).
  • Coca-Cola was looking for ways to translate its name into Chinese, with predictable results. The first translation, "Ke-Kou-Ke-La", read as "Waxed female horse" or "Biting the wax tadpole" depending on the dialect. They eventually settled to "Ko-Ou-Ko-Le", which means, "A mouthful of delight".
Even though the above examples sound quite comical by themselves, they also serve to illustrate how easy it is for translators to make bad translations out of their work. As such, they should be aware of the indispensability of context in their line of work. ---

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