Translation troubles

I got back a few days ago from a month-long trip to (mainland) France, the UK and Iceland (I’ll be blogging about the Icelandic language soon), and I wanted to share some surprising or humorous translation errors I came across while travelling.

First of all, when we dropped our hire car off at Edinburgh airport on our way to Iceland we came across this surprising sign:

The ‘keys’ have of course been translated into the other languages using the word for computer keys and not car keys. Thankfully the context and the illustration help you understand what is meant.

Also in Edinburgh we came across the following sign when leaving a car-park:

I don’t speak German, Italian or Spanish so can’t vouch for the other languages, but in French a new word, renez, has been created.

While we were in the UK the Korean flag scandal happened, and two days later a chain of British opticians capitalised on it with the following newspaper advertisement:

Although I lived for three years in South Korea my Korean isn’t fluent enough to be sure when there’s a mistake, however a Korean friend confirmed that while the Korean itself is correct, ‘Specsavers’ should be at the beginning and not the end of the sentence. Presumably the advertisers wanted the Korean to look like the equivalent English sentence (an advertising slogan which is well-known in the UK): “They should have gone to Specsavers”.

The day after my return to Reunion Island I went to a local restaurant with a friend who was passing through. This particular restaurant is one of the few in Saint Denis that’s taken the trouble to translate its menu into English, however they insist on using internet translation and unfortunately that gives the following results:

Drop in for dinner?

For those that don’t speak French the Crotin [sic] de Chèvre Chaud should be ‘Warm Goat’s Cheese’ in English and not ‘dung’! (This photo was featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ ‘Best of January 2014’ photo gallery)

Another example from the same menu:

Puts a ro-dent in your appetite?

Here Souris [d’agneau] (knuckle of lamb) has been translated literally as ‘mouse’. (This photo was also featured in The Telegraph’s ‘Sign Language’ photo gallery). Things have improved however, as a few years ago filet was translated thoughout as ‘net’ instead of ‘fillet’, and cabot de fond (a type of fish) was translated as ‘dog bottom’!

Have you seen any translations that have made you laugh out loud recently?

P.S. By the way, the level of English in Iceland was amazingly good – I virtually never saw (or even heard) any mistakes in English. 

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11 responses

  1. Great post. Can’t wait to read about Iceland…ah, the envy!

    The hospitality trade in general (and the restaurant trade in particular) is quite prone to using the Internet or “a friend’s nephew who studied a language for a few months” as their source for translations…quite frustrating…

    In Spanish, the same word, “callos”, is used for tripe and callouses…figure out which one of the two English words was used for a menu somewhere in the middle of Castille? …didn’t have the heart to ask if any foreigners had ever asked for the dish!!!


    p.s. The translation of “Haste Ye Back” in Spanish actually says “Turn Around Soon” in Latin American Spanish…

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