The year is almost over, and as language enthusiasts we couldn’t help but revisit some of 2016’s best translation fails. From designer blunders to machine translation disasters, this year has proved once again that not all translations are created equal.
Nike Wishes China a Happy New Year
Determined to throw an impressive celebration to mark the Chinese New Year, Nike released a new Special Edition Air Force 1 shoe embroidered with the characters 發 (‘fa’) and 福 (‘fu’). When viewed separately, the shoes read “prosperity” and “luck”, which is likely to be the intended message.
However, the company’s designers failed to research the altered message displayed when the characters are side by side in the product’s advert.
Somehow we don’t think “get fat” is quite the right message for a renowned sports brand.
Deadline Disaster for The Sun
Transfer deadline day in football is known to be dog-eat-dog, particularly when it comes to reporting the gossip. Many journalists will be busy scouring foreign publications in the hope of stumbling across news on their local stars.
For UK-based English-speaking reporters working without human translators, this often means turning to online translation to reveal the overseas gossip. However, in a rush to be first to a story, The Sun newspaper failed to confirm the name of the publication from which it was sourcing its gossip, and unintentionally announced a link between football club Middlesbrough and “former Ajax captain Ekstra Bladet”.
Sounds legit, until you realise that Ekstra Bladet happens to be the name of the news source.
Russia: “Land of Shadow”
Another embarrassing translation fail has also been linked to online machine translation tools, which in January this year began translating “Russian Federation” into “Mordor”, the fictional region home to the evil Lord Sauron in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
“Russians” was also mistranslated into “occupiers” by Google Translate, while the surname of foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was translated to “sad little horse”. Incidentally, the errors were found in the online translator’s Ukrainian to Russia service, which sparked controversy in a year when tensions in the region were running high.
Do It Yourself – A 5,000 Mile Round Trip
Shoppers in Wales this year were left confused when a poorly translated sign suggested their local DIY store had relocated to the United States.
Members of the public who arrived at the Aberystwyth branch of B&Q were met with a banner on the closed store stating the nearest alternative would require a transatlantic flight.
Thanks to an error in the sign’s Welsh translation, the poster mistakenly read “Dod oh hyd at Unol daleithiau”, which translates as “You can find at United States”. Thankfully, former customers were able to find home improvement goods at the nearby Carmarthen store, a little closer to home.
If you’re company’s planning to operate in overseas markets in 2017, give Bubbles a call with your translation requirements and avoid any embarrassing slipups like the above.