“LOST IN TRANSLATION” Don’t let the joke be on you!

There are many hilarious stories concerning translations where the intended meaning of a message was literally “lost in translation”. While these miscommunications can be humorous, they can also have serious consequences. No company wants to be sending the wrong message to their clients or potential customers, but they don’t always get it right!

For example, Japanese gamers (paying clients of game-maker, Activision) playing a game known as “Call of Duty” were left confused and frustrated by a major mistranslation of a comment in the game. “Remember, no Russian,” a reminder to characters in the game to speak no Russian, was translated as “Kill ’em; they’re Russians”.

Lack of research can also lead to problems. A hair product manufacturer was left wondering why their new hair-curling product was experiencing such slow sales in Germany. They marketed the product in Germany under its English name: “Mist Stick”. Little did they know that, in German, ‘Mist’ is slang for manure. A simple enquiry to their local translation consultancy firm would have saved them some grief!

On a more serious note, during South Korea’s 2011 Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, critical documents were left with missing content, mistranslations and major grammatical errors. This major embarrassment to the Korean government highlights the need to use credible translation partners for translation projects of national significance. The Korean Trade Minister attributed the mistakes to a cost-cutting measure gone wrong.

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