Everyone has had the experience of chuckling or being amazed at how just a few words that have not been translated properly have led to quite a different meaning than intended. It’s common when you go on holiday to see unprofessionally translated signs and tourist literature. In fact, some newspapers and magazines make it one of their regular features to display some poor hapless translated sign that is unintelligible or downright funny or just daft.

Few Words Mistranslated

It’s not just translations into English, either. There are several English speaking countries which now routinely have large numbers of foreign visitors, businessmen and women and tourists. That means there is a huge demand for signage in the common languages spoken by those visitors. In New Zealand, for example, a country of just over four million residents, all of whom speak English, nearly four million tourists and other visitors fly in every year. It’s a fair bet that many of those new signs in Mandarin, French, German and Japanese have a number of funny or misleading inaccuracies and that’s something can be repeated in any heavily visited country.

Sometimes a few words poorly translated can make a big difference. Miss France, a hopeful contestant in the annual Miss Universe pageant, was pretty furious after her interview was badly translated. The interview is the time that contestants are not just judged on their body shape or choice of clothes, but when they reveal they have a personality, brain and an education as well. But poor Miss France didn’t get to say what she wanted to say as her response to the question asked was in French, her native language and it was poorly translated into English.

She was asked in the interview whether she had ever experienced any personal failures and how she had dealt with them. The young woman appeared to have said that she had “missed out on a casting because her name wasn’t on a list, but the next day she was in a new book”. This rather garbled translation seemed rather strange to the judges and wasn’t exactly what she had said in French. What she had actually said was that she had missed out on the first year of medical school at university, but had bought a new book so that she could study harder the next year. Fortunately for her, the bad translation didn’t ultimately affect her chances of getting the title, so perhaps the other contestants were misquoted as well by the same translator!