turkishenglish.com - Translation bloopers

These are problems you WON'T have if you work with us!

Many translation jobs are given to translators who claim to be able to translate into 3, 4, or sometimes even more languages. As a linguist who speaks fluent Turkish and has studied languages in general for years, I know just how impossible this is. The following examples illustrate my point exceedingly well. We are sure you will get a kick out of them and they will  give you a feel for just how fraught with snares and pitfalls the translator's job is. "Chicken translate" or "Roasted chicken"?

Picture of a sign: Kömürde Piliç Çevirme / cihichen translateIf you were a tourist driving down the road in Turkey, you just might see an ad for "Chicken translate". This is because the word "translate" in Turkish can also mean "rotated" as in "rotated on a spit".

Clairol, the hair products company, introduced the "Mist Stick", a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that mist is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the manure stick.

When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the USA - with the cute baby on the label. Later they found out that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what is inside since many people cannot read.

Two signs from a Majorcan shop entrance: "English well talking. Here speeching American?"

Picture of a sign: Çimlere basmay?n?z / Keep out the grass A sub-standard translation will not make a good impression. In a Turkish airport: "Keep out the grass."
("çimlere geçit yok" anlamına gelir)

In a Tokyo hotel: "Is forbidden to steal towels please. If you are not a person to do such thing please not read notice."

In a Bucharest hotel lobby: "The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret you will be unbearable."

In a Leipzig elevator: "Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up."

In a Yugoslavian hotel: "The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid."

In a hotel in Athens: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 am daily."

In a Paris hotel elevator: "Please leave your values at the front desk."

On the menu in a Swiss restaurant: "Our wines leave you nothing to hope for."

Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: "Ladies may have fits upstairs."

In a Bangkok dry cleaner's: "Drop your trousers here for best results."

Picture of the Eiffel tower A professional translator will impress your visitors Outside a Paris dress shop: "Dresses for street walking."

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian orthodox monastery: "You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday."

On the menu of a Polish hotel: "Salad a firm's own make: limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people's fashion."

In a Rhodes tailor shop: "Order your summer's suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation."

From the Soviet Weekly: "There will be a Moscow exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years."

In a Zurich hotel: "Because it is improper to entertain the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose."

In a Rome laundry: " Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time."

In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency: "Take one of our horse-driven city tours - we guarantee no miscarriages. 

Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand: "Would you like to ride on your own ass?"

In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: "We take your bags and send them in all directions."

Picture of hieroglyphsIn a Norwegian cocktail lounge: "Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar."

In a Budapest zoo: "Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty."

In the office of a Romanian doctor: "Specialist in women and other diseases."

In an Acapulco hotel: "The manager has personally passed all the water served here."

In a Tokyo shop: "Our nylons cost more than common, but you'll find they are the best in the long run."

From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: "Coold and Heats: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself."

Coors translated its slogan, "Turn it Loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from Diarrhea."