Funny translation fails are common wherever and whenever translation takes place by amateur human translators and, these days at least, computer-generated translation apps and programmes freely available on the internet.
Anyone who has gone on an overseas holiday will have encountered funny translation fails and not-so-funny, let’s say embarrassing, translation fails, when they have been traveling around. It’s not just English that is translated badly from other languages, but it’s common when anyone from any language area visits somewhere where the local tourist industry is trying to save a few dollars by leaving their tourist literature and sign translations to an amateur or Google Translate or other internet tools.
Funny translation fails are now just as common, probably more so, on the various social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter. Social media translation fails are often harmless and just cause a few grins or a titter or two. Of course, many businesses now use social media to advertise their services and that’s when translation should be taken seriously and left to a professional translator before being uploaded.
Examples of Funny Social Media Translation Fail
1. The would-be sisters who became a pair of nuns by mistake
Two young friends visited Malta and decided to get a special joint tattoo. Because they were in Malta they decided to describe their tattoo on Facebook using an online translation of the word “sisters.” The online translation somehow got it wrong and gave them the word “nuns” in Maltese, instead, and that’s how all their Maltese friends saw their tattoo – on a couple of nuns!
2. The sushi bar that wasn’t nationalistic enough
A sushi bar in Singapore decided to advertise one of their dishes over their preferred social media site named after a combination of the name of their bar and a Malay word taken from the Singaporean National anthem’s first line. It turned out to be a rather embarrassing funny translation fail instead of “advance us” in Malay, the translation became ‘curse us” simply through not translating the name of their bar correctly!
3. The biscuits that contained secret doses of alcohol
Oreo biscuits are well known around the world and are eaten in many different countries. The company that makes Oreo decided to have an online marketing campaign extolling the virtues of their chocolate Oreo biscuits in Arabic. Unfortunately, one of those pesky social media translation fails cropped up and somehow the campaign slogan advertised the biscuits as containing chocolate liquor, interpreted by totalitarian Arabic speakers as an alcoholic! Of course, they didn’t have any alcohol at all in them, but it underlines the importance of making sure a professional translator with local cultural immersion does the marketing translation on social media platforms.