Tech

Famously Botched Translations

Translations that are great or at the very least adequate, are almost transparent in their execution and notoriety. However, bad attempts at translation often gain fame for all the wrong reasons and with the power of the Internet, spread like wildfire throughout the world. Often in these scenarios the resulting chaos leaves companies and translation agencies that often offer multilingual SEO services alike scrambling to issues apologies and product withdrawals before the damage grows even more.

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Umbro “Zyklon” Shoes

In 2002, the sportswear company Umbro released a set of football boots and gave them the name “Zyklon” in an attempt to create an exotic yet strong sounding name. The problem being that the chemical bearing the same name “Zyklon B” was used to kill millions of Jews in the holocaust that took place in Nazi Germany. Outrage obviously ensued and Umbro had not thoroughly researched the connotations of the word and ended up having to recall the model and apologise profusely.

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Got Milk?

Noticed internationally as one of the most iconic milks advertisements ever, “Got Milk?” – usually accompanied by an individual with a milky moustache was a huge hit in the US. However when translated directly into Spanish (as it was by the campaign), its meaning became “Are you lactating?”.

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Afghan Translators

Canadian military forces in Afghanistan have been encountering trouble that could easily be averted with quality translation. In 2009, Canadian defence minister Adam Mackay reported that he witnessed at least two instances where innocent Afghan civilians were incorrectly labelled as Taliban cooperatives because Afghan-English interpreters could not fully grasp what was said at the correct rate or quality.

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Film Titles

Several famous films have seemingly simple and iconic titles, however when put through the linguistic grinder, they often come out meaning something ridiculous or detrimental to the original intent. Translators either make the mistake of translating the words directly or trying to get the essence without understanding the film or plot at all. The dark comedy set in Alaska named “Fargo” was translated in some regions of China to “Mysterious Murder in Snowy Cream”. The comedy film about a pregnancy named “Knocked Up” became “One Night, Big Belly” which does sum up the events of the film, albeit in a very blunt fashion.

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Subtitles

In Jan Švankmajer’s adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, the flamingo-cum-croquet gets translated in the subtitles as “flamenco”. Obviously croquet has nothing to do with flamenco, and as such was endemic of many other subtitling problems in media.

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With subtitling you generally get what you pay for and whether or not your treatment of the subtitling services is generous (deadlines etc.). Good subtitling can be obtained through shrewd research of a team’s reputation and experience; often projects similar to the client’s can illuminate who is best for the job. Subtitling that doesn’t have oversight leads to incomplete or downright incorrect subtitles being attached to the media involved, damaging the product making it harder overseas markets to enjoy.

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Sarah Williams is the author of the above article. Sarah is currently collaborating on a tourism project for the apartment rental agencyHotels in San Sebastian. This travel agency provides hosrt-term touristic apartments and rentals in San Sebastian, the Basque Country. Follow Sarah Williams on Twitter at @SWilliamsLondon, and connect with her on LinkedIn, she is reachable at linkedin.com/pub/sarah-williams/82/8b5/880. Sarah is an avid reader, loves following YouTube channels and watching Netflix.

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