5 Epic Translation Errors by Big Companies

 In Articles, Business, Case Study

very language is beautiful in its truest or original form. When one, however, tries to think in one language and then literally translate the phrase or expression or the entire sentence into another language, the results can be hilarious.

If such translation blunders are committed in a business context or corporate environment, they cannot be called hilarious but simply terrible or, best described, as horrible. They prove to be fatal for businesses that are looking to expand beyond the boundaries.

Let us see a few examples where big companies or global corporate giants or conglomerate firms have suffered huge losses as well as their reputation because of big translation blunders committed by unskilled translators who might have, probably, used translation machines available online.

1. Pepsi, can you actually do this?

When the American corporate giant, PepsiCo, planned to venture into Chinese markets, it must have imagined that the young generation in China would go crazy after their drink, Pepsi. Their imagination however crash-landed when their tagline which reads as “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” in English was translated to “Pepsi brings your relatives back from the dead” in Chinese, and the Chinese took it as an offence or insult to their dead ancestors.

2. Oh, dear Coca-Cola, we like your name as it is!

Coca-Cola is not far behind Pepsi while committing translation error if we see how they translate English to Chinese. Their name itself was translated incorrectly. When translated into Chinese, Coca-Cola became Ke-Kou-Ke-La which means “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax” depending upon the dialect of the people. The translator should have understood that names are not to be translated but simply transliterated.

3. KFC, feed them chicken instead!

Similar was the case of KFC. When American food-chain KFC wanted to spread its wings in China, it thought that its tagline “Finger-lickin’ good” would be translated into Chinese to mean “so tasty that one will keep licking one’s fingers even after finishing the meal”. The translator, however, used his/her knowledge (sarcasm) to translate it as “eat your fingers off.” Now, why will anyone have chicken if the brand asks its customers to eat their fingers instead of chicken?

4. GE, we totally understand your pain!

American company, GE, which is headquartered in Boston, ventured into European markets with a new name GPE. It, however, was absolutely oblivious to the fact that its name had been translated into French as “J’ai pete” which means “I farted”. Now, you can imagine how ugly the situation must have turned for GE.

5. Coors, stop scaring people away!

American beer maker Coors created a funny image for itself with a translation mistake. The mistake cost it dear. While translating its slogan “Turn it loose” from English to Spanish, the translator translated it as “suffer from diarrhea”. The Spanish people must have got scared of the beer and turned their faces away upon sight of it.

Summing Up

The translation errors committed by these companies cost them their reputations, huge market shares and their dreams of rapid success. When such giants launch their dream projects locally or try to expand them in international markets, they are mostly short of time. Every day, every minute matters to all the stakeholders. They cannot afford to postpone the date of launching due to minor issues. Here, the translators play key roles in the overall process, and they sometimes tend to use easily available translation tools for quicker results. Such errors can, however, be avoided by using reliable or tried and tested translation quality assurance tools, and with proper confirmation with the concerned department before the ‘final go-ahead’!

We, at Transchamp have a team of in-house language translator experts from different locations, who are proficient in English and local languages who understands the culture and needs of people from different parts of the World.
If you are planning to take your product or service into a new global market where you want to get clear on your localization plan, click here to receive a free up consultation

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  • BrianSoack

    Many thanks, this site is very valuable.

    • multibhashi_admin

      Thanks, Brian. Do followup for more updates!

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