In the past we have seen some high profile translation errors from some of the world’s most renowned companies. Entering into new markets is always a challenge. This challenge becomes much greater when companies come into a new market with ill-conceived and incorrect translations.
One oft-cited but rather dubious story is that KFC were to be left red-faced when they ran with their famous “Finger-lickin’ good” slogan in the 1980’s as they were expanding into the Chinese market. Unfortunately for the fast food giant this phrase was supposedly translated as “Eat your fingers off” which is certainly less appetising. However, by using a creative translator they were able to come up with a slogan that used Chinese language and culture in a much more palatable way. The slogan they used from 2010 translates more like “Life is so beautiful (生活如此多娇)”, adapted from a poetic work by Chairman Mao that said: “This land is so rich in beauty that countless heroes have paid homage to it. (江山如此多娇， 引无数英雄竞折腰。)”
You might think with more widespread globalisation that questionable translations like this would be a thing of the past. But sportswear giants Nike recently served up a timely reminder that errors still happen, even by the biggest brands. They recently introduced a pair of special edition trainers into the Chinese market. The left and right shoe both has unique characters sewn into each shoe. The left shoe had the character “Fa” meaning “Getting rich” and the right shoe had “Fu” meaning “Fortune arrives”. This is all well and good until you combine these two symbols and the translation turns into “Getting fat”, not the best message for a sportswear company.