5 Funny Translation Fails—and How to Avoid Them

"What I Meant to Say Was..."

Today, it seems easier than ever to translate text into different languages. You can look up a phrase on your computer using Google Translate, click “translate” on sites like Facebook for an instant translation, or try free translation software for longer documents. But how do you know you’re getting an accurate translation? In many cases… you’re not!

At 806 Technologies, we help schools avoid translation errors by providing expert translation services from real people who are fluent in 150+ different languages. Over the years, we’ve heard some funny stories about what happens when schools use auto-translation services that don’t interpret their messages correctly.

Here are our 5 Favorite Translation Fails:

1. "It's a crime to meet you."

Feeling excited and energized after an Open House, a teacher sent a follow-up note out to parents. She meant to thank them, and tell them how delighted she was to meet them. The note said, “Es un delito conocerte,” which, unfortunately, means, “It’s a crime to meet you.”

2. "We're serving glass at school today."

The French word “glace” is pronounced the same as the English word “glass.” Maybe that’s why a field trip notice to parents announced that the students would be eating glass, instead of ice cream. So that’s why the kids didn’t seem too excited!

3. "You're invited to eat small dogs."

Who doesn’t love a Hot Dog Cookout? Parents, when they are invited to the school to eat small dogs. “Comeremos perros pequenos.” Sounds legit, right?

4. "Students will dress for P.E."

“Students will dress out for P.E. class” was translated in Spanish as, “Students will dress for physical education class.” It makes us wonder what they do for math class and social studies?

5. "We will face working with you."

“We would love working with you” was translated as “Nos enfrentariamos trabajando contigo,” or “We would face working with you.” Not a very friendly invitation for parents to come to school.

Avoid Translation Fails.

No one likes feeling misunderstood – but when you use automated translation services, you risk sending the wrong message. At worst, parents and students may feel angry, offended, or simply confused. At best, they may realize the error and laugh, but miss out on important information. You may also miss a critical opportunity to connect with parents, students and your community.

In our increasingly diverse and mobile society, schools are translating communications with parents more than ever before. Using a professional translation service, staffed by people who speak and understand the language in which you wish to communicate, can help your school avoid translation fails and improve parent-teacher relationships.

Translators must understand the source text at a deep level, knowing the meaning behind the words. It’s also helpful if they understand the culture and industry in which they are working. For that reason, 806 Technologies uses translators with education experience whenever possible, bringing an even deeper level of value to our translation services.

Need Translation Services?

New customers often come to us after experiencing translation failures from other sources – and we love hearing those stories. However, we also love helping clients avoid these problems before they happen. Learn more about 806 Technologies Translation Services, email translations@806technologies.com or click here to contact us with any questions. We look forward to hearing from you!