It’s a favourite cautionary tale among translation professionals: Make sure your translations are accurate or you and your product could become a laughing stock. The first step in achieving this is to use a native speaker – a golden rule that should never be broken.
Here are a few examples (many of which you may have seen before – but the old ones are often the best) of mistranslations into English – a language I would hate to have to learn as a foreign language myself, as there are so many exceptions to rules and slight nuances as the following will demonstrate:
“We take your bags and send them in all directions” – Airline Ticket Office, Copenhagen (Never a truer word said!)
“Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin” – A Furrier’s window, Sweden
“Specialist in women and other diseases” – Doctor’s office in Rome
“You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid” – Japanese Hotel
“Open seven days a week and weekends” – In a City restaurant
“Drop your trousers here for best results” – Dry Cleaners, Bangkok
“Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life” – The box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong
“Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time” – A laundry in Rome
“Our wines leave you nothing to hope for” – Swiss restaurant menu
“Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the Manager” – Restaurant, Nairobi
A final note: This is merely a light-hearted look at the difficulties of translation and no offence is intended or should be taken. Learners of English everywhere, we salute you – you are still doing a far better job than the majority of Anglophones in the UK and USA in mastering a foreign language!
Additional examples most welcome.
7 January 2009 09:42