Mistranslations – English in other countries

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.

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