Translation Should not be Done Word for Word

Professional translation means grasping the meaning of the source language and conveying it properly into the target language. It is not possible to do word-for-word translation because there the meaning will not be the same. While some of the mistranslated signs and menus we have here look and sound funny, they just go to show that professional translation is needed for proper communication in any language. Still, let us enjoy what we have for you right now.

1. Wire transfer, literally

We are so used to saying and using wire transfer or electronic transfer that we do not think much about it. But when you do not have a good grasp of the Spanish language, you might also not think it odd when you see the words “transferencia del alambre.” If you do a literal translation of “wire transfer” this is actually what you will come up with. But in the context of its use, it should have been “transferencia electronica” for “electronic transfer” or “wire transfer” or even “transferencia bancaria” for bank transfer.

2. Pregnancy-causing pen?

Companies should be very careful when having their product information translated into other languages to avoid embarrassing mistakes. Parker Pens have been outstanding writing instruments for decades and their reputation should not be marred by poor translations. What caused the error here is the translation of “embarrass” to “embarazará” when their slogan was translated into Spanish when the company entered the Mexican market. The mistranslation turned into “Won’t leak in your pocket and impregnate you.”

3. Using an iron to cook meat

Translations of menus usually provide for a very interesting and hilarious read. Of course if you do not know any better, it won’t make a difference, but if you have an idea of the language the menus are translated into, then you are in for some fun times. Here, instead of using the term “grilled” the amateur translator took the term “a la plancha” too literally, thus conjuring up images of kitchen staff busily cooking meats with a flat iron that is normally used to iron clothes.

4. Word Order is Necessary

This is simple and the translation is actually correct. The error was on the word order. Instead of “water drinkable” it should have been “drinkable water.”

5. Mitotic Lavatory

Please heed the warning. The lavatory has just separated into a male and a woman. Of course we know that the sign just wants to alert users that there is a separate toilet for men and women, they just do not know how to properly explain it in correct English.

6. Forbidden the step

It is very short but still a case of erroneous translation. It was just too literal. “Prohibido El Paso” actually means “No Trespassing”. Period!

7. Mistranslation can lead to job loss.

The owner of this resume, which was translated from Russian to English, must be pulling at her hair in frustration because of the mistranslations done on her resume. We wonder if she demanded compensation from the person who did the translation, unless she did it herself using machine translation.

8. The board that will change you!

Is this a kickboard used by students learning to swim, a scooter or a skateboard? Whatever it is, it promises to change you by making you “light more stylish than whom.” There will be no arguments because “everyone accepts this fact.” It will also enable you to “challenge early.” We will never know what this really means. However, we posit that it means that the board brings some changes in the way you play as this is lighter and most stylish than other boards and that is an accepted fact. Learning to use the board is easier, allowing you to challenge (someone to a race) faster.

9. Prohibition of Admittance

It might take some time for you to decipher this sign in Japanese. It actually meant, “Authorized personnel only.”

10. Love in the Butt

A translation blooper that will surely make you burst into laughter. It’s just one letter (or technically two) that made all the difference. The actual title of this film is “Love in the Buff” but maybe the designer was in a hurry and pressed the letter T instead of F. After all the two letters are close to each other on the keyboard.

11. Protecting public property you are the best

It looks convoluted. What it is saying, based on the image, is for people to protect public property by not writing graffiti on the walls.

12. Failing

The sign in a Japanese says Filing Holders. We wonder what caused them to fail in the translation. They even forgot to include the word “holders” in the translation.

13. Yelling Dental Clinic

It is scary enough for most people to visit a dentist for a check-up. But visiting a Yelling Dental Clinic must be scarier several times over.

14. Ran out of space, perhaps

This started out fine. Everybody can understand the “No Littering” part of it. The second line negated the first line because of the missing “d” in fined. It is either because the translation says just that, or because there is no more space to add the letter “d.” Anyway, it is best not to litter, wherever you are.

15. This is not a dumb site!

The owner of the premises must have been having problems with people dumping their garbage in front of the establishment, prompting the posting of this sign. It would have been effective if the translation and the spelling were checked, so that instead of “dumb” they could have used the right term, “dump.” With the error, somehow, it made the sign such a “dumb sign,” doesn’t it?

16. Shopping should be rational

These are mighty big words: shopping should be rational. It reminds people not to shop on impulse. Pretty nice of them, actually. Likewise you should always be on your best behavior while shopping.

17. Urinating into the Pool

The translation is correct, except for the use of pool instead of “toilet bowl.” Still there is that tag at the end that says, “you are the best.” Are they praising the users for smartly using the toilet bowl like a good boy?

Fair Use Disclaimer policy