09 September 2015
Legend translation errors: how to avoid them?
World-known translation mistakes that cost millions of dollars
In an increasingly globalized market, selling products in different countries has become the reality for contemporary businesses.
Make a product, think of a marketing campaign and create a slogan. It seems simple, but when translation is involved, you can face problems.
History shows us many examples of subtle translation errors. Not only advertising campaigns, but even companies’ slogans and product names have been translated in a way that sounds confusing and sometimes ridiculous in other languages.
Almost all companies suffer from translation errors. Small companies and industrial giants can “boast” enough errors to make a cat laugh, but these mistranslations can lead to failures and big financial losses for businesses. Whether you need a website translation or localization services, you have to be aware of these cases.
Famous cases: if you don't hire a company that provides translation and localization services
General Motors and Chevy Nova
When introducing the new Chevy Nova in South America, why did General Motor’s Spanish translators and marketers not think about the name “Nova”, which in Spanish means, “It won’t go”? An unfortunate series of circumstances, leading to a car named “It won’t go”. But, surprisingly, the car exceeded sales expectations in Venezuela and Mexico.
Colgate and an adult magazine
Colgate, a brand that represents a line of oral hygiene products, introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue. Only after some time did the company realize that a famous local pornography magazine was also sold under the same name.
Pepsi and “raise from the dead”
An example of a bad translation of a global company’s main slogan in a new market; when Pepsi started a marketing campaign in Taiwan, its slogan "Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation" was translated into the language of Taiwan and was understood by locals as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead". The company planned to enter into a new market with another more convincing motto.
But can you believe that this wasn’t the end of this fatal marketing slogan? With the same slogan the company entered the German market where it was translated as “raise from the dead together with Pepsi”.
Electrolux and sucks
Electrolux, a famous Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer, used the following advertising campaign in the USA: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”. We know that the word “sucks” has different meanings, and one of them in American English means that something is very bad.
Kentucky Fried Chicken – eat your fingers off!
KFC used its famous American slogan, "finger-lickin' good" in the Chinese market. But in Chinese it was translated into something close to "eat your fingers off".
And these are only a few examples of famous companies that have neglected to hire a skilled translation company. Real history shows thousands of translation errors that continue to appear even today.
How to avoid these translation errors? Don't hesitate to use translation services
First of all, avoid machine translation. While sometimes it could be helpful to understand the meaning of several sentences in other languages, machines that translate your text hardly even differentiate between the words “oil” and “butter”.
Not all native speakers are good translators
Sure, native speakers may be good editors, but a good translator knows all the nuances of the translation process - only experienced specialists can do this professionally.
Provide enough information to the translator
Provide your translator with all the necessary information: a product or service description, a translation example, the purpose of the text, etc. Remember, a good translator will ask first.
When the translation has been done, hand the translated material to an editor who will read it, correct mistakes and adapt the language to the target audience.
Hire a company that provides professional translation services
The best practice of all is to hire a specialized translation company that will likely have professional translators, native speaking editors and modern translation software. Another big plus is that they will be able to carry out whatever project you need (even providing voiceover services), deal with different languages and deliver the project within your deadlines.
So if you need translation and localization services, it’s best to contact a specialized company.
And remember; it’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes than your own.