When One Word Leads to Another: Translation Fails in Business

Graphic designer designing a brand logo

Brand vocabulary is an important part of your desire to make your business known. With brand vocabulary, you cannot afford to ignore consistency.

For example, if you refer to a customer reward as a “reward”, but use other synonyms like “bonus” or “special”, your heart may be in the right place, but this may create a cycle of confusion among your customers.

That being said, it is not only brand vocabulary consistency that you should be focused on if you are marketing to customers from different regions, countries, and cultures. You have to know what the right translations are. Without professional language translation services in multilingual Singapore, being “lost in translation” is one of the most terrible sins a company can commit. You may not want to be politically incorrect or offensive, but if you don’t watch how your words are translated in foreign places, you just might be.

Here are some of the best “worst” examples of “misplaced intentions” in the world of translation.

Cannibalism embraced

The original tagline for fried chicken fast-food giant KFC is “Finger-lickin’ good”, but when they got lost in translation in China, the ad ended up saying, “We’ll eat your fingers off.” A JFK airport food court ad read, “You’ll definitely eat your fingers.” Yes, it was misspelled too.

The Walking Thirst

Soda company Pepsi had its own embarrassing experience in the 60s. The slogan, “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation!” makes you thirst for a cold can of Pepsi after a day of youthful enthusiasm. An ad in China, however, had the same effect on the thirsty departed: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead!”

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Beer and bad translation don’t mix

Coors did an ad appealing to the wild side: “Turn it loose.” An ad translated for the Spanish-speaking crowd, however, must have had people running away: “Suffer from diarrhea.” There go those cheese sticks.

Of cars and corpses

Can you believe that Ford committed the unforgivable crime too, and several times? The American motor vehicle manufacturer brags, “Every car has a high-quality body.” In Belgium, however, that translated to “Every car has a high-quality corpse.” Most of the time, such translation fails are the result of lazy research, or not asking a local speaker’s opinion before releasing a final copy. If you have to make an ad or your website in a certain foreign language, it makes sense to hire professional language translation. In Singapore and other countries, where a variety of languages are spoken, these services help you show respect for their language and their culture. Brand language isn’t just about consistency; it’s about saying the right words for the right crowd, wherever they happen to be.

Post Author: Admin