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April 14, 2012 / ABC Translation Services

Top 10 Global Translation Errors

While some of these flubs are rather humorous, errors in translation can also be embarrassing and costly for your business… Translation errors are the cause of the greatest number of blunders in international business.

Number 10: KFC experienced real problems when the phrase “finger lickin’ good” came out in Chinese as “eat your fingers off.”

Now the next one is familiar to me, in fact I’d call it an oldie but goodie.

Number 9: General Motors’ Chevrolet Nova vehicle translated in Spanish in Central and South America as: “No va”, “It Doesn’t Go”;

This next one gives a whole new meaning to their familiar slogan.

Number 8: The Dairy Association’s huge success with the campaign “Got Milk?” in Mexico translated to: “Are You Lactating?”

I suppose that entry No. 7 might also be interpreted as “fly in your birthday suit”.

Number 7: Braniff Airlines launched a new leather first class seats ad campaign in the Mexican market: “Fly in Leather” meant “Fly Naked” (vuela en cuero);

When I read No. 6 the first thing that popped into my mind is Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. Get it?

Number 6: Pepsi’s “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” slogan translated in Chinese: “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”;

No. 5 makes you think there might be something in the water used to make the beer.

Number 5: Colorado brewing company, Coors’ “Turn It Loose” slogan translated in Spanish: “Suffer from Diarrhea”;

Entry number 4 just leaves me scratching my head…

Number 4: Parker Pen’s slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” translated in Mexico: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”;

Ok, with No. 3 I’m starting to believe there’s a translation error plot against the Spanish language…

Number 3: Frank Perdue’s famous chicken slogan, “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken”

translated in Spanish; “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate;

No. 2 makes me think that all things considered, the Chinese must really love their Coke.

Number 2: The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as “Kekoukela”, meaning “Bite the Wax Tadpole” or “Female Horse Stuffed with Wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “kokoukole”, translating into “Happiness in the Mouth.”

And the number one translation error made by a major company is regrettably not very funny at all.

Number 1: Mead Johnson Nutritionals had to recall two baby food products because the instructions on how to prepare the products had been incorrectly translated from English to Spanish. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that if both products were prepared according to the incorrect Spanish translation they could have caused seizures, irregular heartbeat, renal failure and even death.

All of these marketing mishaps are examples of how even the smallest translation error can greatly affect the intended marketing message and the consumer’s reaction to that message. The hiring of a translation company that offers professional translation services could have saved these big companies a lot of money, time and resources.

Now that’s what I call prudent advice.

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