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Not from a film but from real life – stories of 2014 translation blunders and cautionary tales. Plan your translation well to ensure a perfect year ahead!



  #1:  Incomplete translations in a Starbucks shop or a road sign saying “I am out of the office” are some examples of Welsh translations going wrong, but probably the most embarrassing one is the Tesco cash machine offering “free erections” instead of cash. Funny to some people, it highlights the lack of the right tools and attention to the translation before its release, and the risk of confusion or awkwardness it can create.

  #2:  Our own clients share disturbing anecdotes about their past translation experiences, potentially disastrous in consequences but thankfully averted in time. An insurance and underwriting company had once received a French rendition of insurance slip translated as a piece of lingerie! Had it been published in the brochure it was intended for, the risk of losing their clients’ trust would have been immeasurable.

   #3:  A more scholarly approach is used in this article on medical translations, studying how popular online translation services deal with the matter. While over a half of the translations seem correct, one of the most serious examples is Swahili rendition of “your child is fitting” as “your child is dead”, hardly a desired outcome! While helpful to a degree, the use of such tools should be careful, the potential harm being misunderstanding at best, additional revision cost and time, or serious health or legal consequences at worst.


Avoid awkward mistakes, save money and keep your clients’ trust by thoughtfully planning your translation projects, look for appropriate solutions that will be fit for your purpose.


Happy New Year, full of successful communication!