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Where Did The Translation Go Wrong? Part I September 17, 2008

Posted by Fantastic Four in Cultural Diversity, Funnies, Translation.

Over the years I have worked not only as a translator but also a proofreader. I have come across some outrageous translations. There were more than a few times when I had to re-translate the whole thing myself since trying to correct the errors would have taken much longer than starting from scratch.

In this first instalment of my “Where did the translation go wrong?” series, I present to you signs and notices from different countries. I am sure some will make you cringe, some laugh perhaps with a whoa here and there. Many of these have been circulating all over the net bouncing back and forth amongst us, the translators. The ones down below are my personal favourites and they are quite popular on the net.

Uhm… ok…

Bangkok ~ In a dry cleaner’s:
Drop your trousers here for best results.

Bangkok ~ In a temple:
It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.

France ~ In a Paris hotel elevator:
Please leave your values at the front desk.

Greece ~ In Athens:
Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. daily.

Hong Kong ~ Outside a tailor shop:
Ladies may have a fit upstairs.

Hong Kong ~ In an advertisement by a dentist:
Teeth extracted by the latest Methodists.

Hungary ~ In a Budapest zoo:
Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

Italy ~ In a laundry in Rome:
Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

Japan ~ in a Tokyo hotel:
Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such thing is please not to read notis.

Japan ~ In a Tokyo bar:
Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.

Japan ~ In an information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner:
Cooles and Heates: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.

Japan ~ In a brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo:
When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

Mexico ~ In an Acapulco hotel:
The manager has personally passed all the water served here.

Norway ~ In a Norwegian cocktail lounge:
Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

Poland ~ On the menu of a hotel:
Salad a firm’s own make; limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.

Rhodes ~ In a tailor shop:
Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.

Romania ~ in a Bucharest hotel lobby:
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

Russia ~ From the Soviet Weekly:
There will be a Moscow Exhibition of Arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.

Russia ~ In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:
You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.

Serbia ~ In a Belgrade hotel elevator:
To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.

Switzerland ~ On a menu:
Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

Switzerland ~ In a Zurich hotel:
Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.

Yugoslavia ~ In a hotel:
The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.

AND, one that shows us how some products should never make it to another country promoted with the same name:

Australia To Spain ~ The Mitsubishi four wheel drive marketed in Australia as the “Pajero” was the cause of great embarrassment in Spain where “Pajero” means “masturbator”.

Naturally, when the cars didn’t sell they changed the name to Montero…

I say Pajero you say Montero…

On a box;

Thanks for the warning


Next instalment: The most common mistakes – I have observed – Turkish people make when they speak or write in English language. It mostly points to the differences in the sentence structures and the parts of speech between the two languages. Stay tuned!



1. wisewebwoman - September 17, 2008

Oh Gaye, I had such a laugh at these, and I needed it!!

2. Gaye - September 17, 2008

I aim to please Madam! There will be more coming in the near future. Hope you are well?

3. Primal Sneeze - September 17, 2008

Ah, just brilliant. I will be giggling about these all day. I like to Romanian one best – funny, but also so true.

ps. Pajero, being an Argentine animal, was sold in the UK as the Shogun (as it was launched during the Malvinas/Falklands conflict).

4. Baino - September 17, 2008

You’re right I’ve seen some before but I love particularly the Japanese spin on English. Pajero I believe is also Chilean for ‘hard working peasant’ roughly translated by the Ausssie yob as ‘wanker’. We have a strange twist on things eh? Ok its bed time and I must go backward towards my behind! Or is that my bedroom?

5. Gaye - September 18, 2008

Mr Sneeze!
I was wondering which one you’d like and you picked my favourite because it was translated literally and not just a silly-funny mistake, perhaps an “honest mistake” is a better tag for it. Plus, probably the visitors will indeed be unbearable because more than likely they will be too lazy to take the stairs and constantly complain at the concierge desk that the lift isn’t working!
I actually didn’t know that about the Pajero/Montero going through yet another name change in another market. I heard about the Pajero a while back. The spelling is not p-a-j-e-r-o but sounds the same.

6. Gaye - September 18, 2008

Baino, ha ha! We do have a strange twist on things. I am sure you had a post on it somewhere on your blog, nicknames and how Australians change, shorten and invent names. Did you end up finding your bathroom in your trip going backwards, hope you didn’t trip over something!

7. Nick - September 19, 2008

Had a good laugh there. I love the idea of the ladies having a fit upstairs. I can just imagine them quietly trying on a new dress and then going apeshit. Perhaps all clothes shops should have a special room where you can have a fit, in this stressful world I’m sure they’d do excellent business.

8. Gaye - September 19, 2008

Nick, hehe, yes I think you are on to something there. I usually have a fit when I go clothes shopping anyways so if there was a place to accommodate my fits I’d be a regular there, that’s for sure.

9. Primal Sneeze - September 19, 2008

Nice new outfit. Th new look suits you.

10. Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) - September 19, 2008

These are brilliant! I just love reading these translation blunders. I was trying to pick out my favourites but gave up, they’re all so great! Thanks for the laugh!

11. Gaye - September 19, 2008

Thank you Mr Sneeze! I had a few breaks today in between assignments so I squeezed in a little blogging.

12. Gaye - September 19, 2008

No worries Vanilla dear!
🙂 There are heaps more but I didn’t want to make the post 10 extra pages.
I think you might like the next one, too.

13. Quickroute - October 3, 2008

Pure class! – Great collection – Thanks!

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it apparently didn’t know that “no va” means “it won’t go” – needless to say it wasn’t a big hit

14. conortje - October 3, 2008

These are hilarious – I’ve been giggling away to myself at my desk. My favourite is the Tootle him with vigor one. It’s like something out of ‘Allo ‘Allo

15. Gaye - October 4, 2008

Hiyya Quickroute and thanks a mil for dropping by plus commenting!
Lolled at the NoVa for a bit, I didn’t know that one. You’d think somebody on the other side would warn before starting to promote the stuff.

Conor, I am so glad you liked them, hhehe yes tootle him with vigor is a good one too! I haven’t seen Allo Allo but I was told about it, so now that you mentioned I will have to watch it!

16. Taffiny - October 7, 2008

Very funny, my son was laughing hysterically at some of them.
My bad for letting him read the last two. We quite like car rental firm in Tokyo 🙂

17. Gaye - October 7, 2008

Hi Taffiny, welcome. 🙂
I am sorry about the last two; they are not G but more like MA rated. Trumpeting someone melodiously first is more polite of course, than tootling them with vigor for no apparent reason.

18. tina - November 7, 2008

Ha haa, these are hilarious!
Great blog, btw!

19. Gaye - November 7, 2008

Hi Tina,
Thank you for dropping by and the comment. I just saw yours “I saw this … ” is a great line! I will be back for more.

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