Speaking two languages is not quite the same as being able to translate or interpret something from one language to another. You must be careful about the way sentences are formed and have enough knowledge and experience to avoid common mistakes.
If you have been to a conference in another language, you will realize that it’s not easy to keep up in real time. A professional conference interpreting service can come in handy.
Sometimes, translation and interpretation mistakes may just be funny. But other times they can influence major historical or business conflicts. This is why hiring professional interpreter services is crucial. Here are some of the most controversial translations and interpretation accidents we have come across.
Due to a bad translation of the Old Testament, poor Moses ended up with horns on his head. St. Jerome made a mistake and translated the Hebrew word “keren” as “horned” instead of “radiance”. As such, Moses was depicted with horns for centuries.
Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if it hasn’t led to the forming of an offensive stereotype about the horned Jew.
The U.S. government issued the Potsdam Declaration in 1945 and demanded Japan’s surrender. Unfortunately, its prime minister responded by using the word “mokusatsu”.
What he meant by this is: “No comment. We are still thinking about it.”. Unfortunately, his words were interpreted incorrectly.
The sentence was translated as “We ignore with contempt”, which resulted in the atom bomb to be dropped on Hiroshima a few days later.
Jimmy Carter embarrassed himself in Poland, thanks to the poor interpretation skills of his interpreter.
In his speech, he declared that “he left the United States, never to return” and that “he was happy to grasp at Poland’s private parts”.
When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave his speech in 2006 his words were translated as he wished for Israel to be wiped off the map.
What he meant to say is “the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”.
Air Canada Flight
In 1983, an Air Canada plane had to make an emergency landing because it had ran out of fuel. As it turned out, the staff was confused about pounds and kilograms.
This resulted in a miscalculation about the amount of fuel plain needed for the flight.
In 2008, there was a very funny mix-up when a “No entry” sign was translated to Welsh in Swansea.
The sign said: “I am not in the office at the moment, please send all work to be translated”. Amazingly, no one noticed that this was actually an auto response from the translator.
American “chicken-man” decided to branch out to the Mexican market. He developed a serious marketing campaign and placed billboards all over the country. Too bad he didn’t hire a professional translator.
His picture with one of his birds was everywhere and the slogan was: “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused”.
Poisoned 71 mil
A man named Ramirez was admitted to a hospital in Florida in a very bad state. He was poisoned and needed an emergency treatment from the hospital staff.
Unfortunately, in a hurry to save his life, they made a crucial error in translation. They mistakenly traded the Spanish word “intoxicado” with an English word “intoxicated”.
They then treated the poor man as if he was suffering from an intentional drug overdose.
The man has survived but was left a quadriplegic. He sued the hospital and received a malpractice settlement of $71 million.
On the other side of Europe, seven cancer patients died from excessive exposure to radiation. Believe it or not, the booklets that contained instructions in French were translated all wrong. No one noticed the mistake until it was too late.
Because of the poor translation, the doses of radiations were miscalculated. The patients were unintentionally over-exposed.
“Assume nothing” was the HSBC bank’s catchphrase that got mistranslated in 2009 as “Do nothing”.
The bank certainly had to do something about it. It spent another $10 million to repair the damage by launching a rebranding campaign.
Instead of “Finger-lickin’ good”, KFC ended up with a misfortune slogan in Chinese that said “ Eat your fingers off”.
“Come alive with Pepsi” was so poorly translated in Chinese. The slogan ended up claiming it can literally raise you from the dead.
Swedish Electrolux launched an American advertising campaign. It had the following slogan: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”.
Ballpoint pen that Parker produces is known not to make any leaks. The manufacturer wanted to point that out in a Mexico advertising campaign, but ended up with a terrible slogan.
Instead of making a statement on how it will not leak in your pocket and embarrass you, the message was: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
For a more interesting depiction of these translation and intepretation errors, check out our infographic below!