January 6, 2003—Translators have very important jobs. Good translators know that it is not just about translating word for word.
Elizabeth Elting, President and CEO, TransPerfect Translations, one of the world's leading translation companies says, "Accurately conveying the meaning when translating from one language to another is absolutely critical. Depending upon the subject matter, sometimes this can mean sticking closely to the source text and other times it requires a looser translation in order to best deliver the central meaning. A good translator knows this and that understanding and ability can make all the difference between getting your message across the way you intended and having your message misconstrued."
Here are some examples of bad translations that really ruined the message:
- "Drop your pants here for best results."
-sign at a dry cleaning store in Tokyo
- "We take your bags and send them in all directions."
-sign at a Scandinavian airport
- "Ladies may have a fit upstairs."
-sign at a dry cleaning store in Bangkok
- "Please leave your values at the front desk."
-sign in a hotel in Paris.
- "Here speeching American."
-sign in a Moroccan shop.
- "No smoothen the lion."
-sign in a zoo in the Czech Republic.
- "The lift is being fixed. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable."
-sign in Bucharest hotel lobby
- "Teeth extracted by latest methodists."
-sign in Hong Kong dentist's office.
- "STOP! Drive Sideways."
-detour sign in Japan.
- "Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time."
-sign in a Rome laundry.
- "If you consider our help impolite, you should see the manager."
-sign in an Athens hotel.
- "Our wines leave you nothing to hope for."
-on the menu of a Swiss restaurant
- "It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man."
-in a Bangkok temple
- "Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin."
-window of a Swedish furrier
- "Specialist in women and other diseases."
-doctor's office in Rome
- "When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle
him with vigor."
-car rental brochure in Tokyo.
There is no question that bad translators translated these signs and the results are funny. But when it comes to the legal, pharmaceutical or financial areas, it is not so funny and could be dangerous. As one of the leading translation companies in the world, TransPerfect Translations' Liz Elting, "The reason we are so careful is that our business is no laughing matter. Could you imagine an improper translation of directions on a prescription drug packet or a misinterpretation of a legal brief? Translators must not only be experts in language but they also must be experts in the area of business." Elting continues, "One of the biggest failures of a product was for the Chevy Nova in Latin American countries. 'No va" in Spanish means no go, not a good name brand for a car."
With revenue of over $250 million, TransPerfect is the largest privately held language services provider in the world. From offices in 66 cities on 5 continents, TransPerfect offers a full range of services in over 100 languages to multinationals worldwide. With a global network of over 4,000 linguists and subject-area specialists, TransPerfect is the largest translation company to be fully ISO 9001:2008 and EN 15038:2006 certified. TransPerfect is headquartered in New York and has regional headquarters in London and Hong Kong. For more information, please visit our website at www.transperfect.com.