Don’t let anybody fool you: For all our industry’s talk about translation quality, there’s plenty of missteps and mishaps. Some are simple enough. CAT tools have nothing to do with felines (sorry!!!), so not knowing the source language well can lead to some pretty funny but harmless mistakes. Some errors are not so simple, though. They are, instead, outlandishly bad that whole nations have almost come to blows over the error.
Humor site Engrish has long delivered its funny take on the mistakes that can be found in English translation. Because the site’s creator lived and worked in Japan, the site was launched in 1996 with images of Japan-to-English translations but has since expanded to welcome translations from around the world. Moreover, the site now has its Eastern compatriot of the World Wide Web. Hanzi Smatter highlights examples of Chinese characters translated for Western audiences. Tattoos. Road signs. Restaurant menus. Industry slogans. Official business publications. The world is filled with opportunities for translation hazards.
Just how do these mistakes get made anyway? Well, we’ve identified four kinds of translator types who are single-handedly ensuring that quality assurance and translation certification processes never go out of business.
1. The Literalist
These translators value precision, consistency, and common meanings grounded in peer-reviewed, scientific analysis of terminology. There’s no room for interpretation here or adapting for meaning. Freedom? Creativity? Spirit? Get off my lawn, you crazy kids! There are dictionary definitions, synonyms, and antonyms for every one of those terms and they won’t tolerate your hippy-flower-power-woo-woo, thank you very much.
2. The Word Wizards
These translators are in-your-face bold masterminds of multilinguicity. They pop, sparkle, and buzz electric confidence over all the text they deign to translate for us mere muggles. Their words are a wild mélange of the soul: its ups, its downs, its underneath the earth, and its atop the clouds. And, of course, it makes sense that these literary masterpieces are otherwise unintelligible. I mean, would you question the brilliance of the haiku?
3. The Babe in the Woods
We love these translators for everything they refuse to see about the world we live in. They’re the ones who look around confused when everyone else is rolling on the floor laughing asking, “What did I miss?” They’re the ones causing most of us to spit coffee on our computer screens. They’re not perverts — no one has ever accused them of having a dirty mind. Ever. But a single slip of the finger on the keyboard and a mind too busy imagining sunny meadows and horses means they’ll deliver jokes they’ll never get. And, with our bellies aching from all of the laughter, we love them for it.
4. The Google Translate Evangelist
Did they read the Idiot’s Guide to Google Translate? Nope. You just know that there was someone in the office who timidly suggested, “Maybe we should hire a professional translator …” and was met with a look of horror. Professional translation? And waste money?! Sacrilege! Not when Google Translate is there to save us from such a fate!
We can enjoy the giggles and guffaws of these translation gems … as long as they’re not ours, right? Have your own to share? Let us know in the comments. Enjoy Friday, industry friends!