Translation Musings

Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

Today in Tuesday’s Terrible Translations we are going to focus on menu problems. If it isn’t clear what is on offer do you think it puts people off, or actually encourages the adventurous to try something different? Have a look at these amusing examples and see what you think!

1. Husband

What has a sponge-like texture and is best served roasted? Husband of course.










2. Mixed sea food Iraq government office surface

We were already smiling when we got to “The butter pastes the cake” but this is a whole other level of wrong. If you order this you are ultimately playing food roulette!









3. Peppers with beautiful

Pimientos con bonito are in fact peppers stuffed with Cantabrian white tuna. But, peppers with beautiful pretty much sums it up.










And we had to include this one because it brought a smile to our faces.












Well… it sounds right!

If you have seen other questionable menus we would love to hear from you. Click here to send a message.

Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

This week in Tuesday’s Terrible Translations we bring you movie titles. You would think that translating only a few words would not provide much of a challenge to professional translators, however there is a scary amount of proof that shows otherwise. A movie title is painstakingly selected. Some are cryptic, others a summary of events, and some give you a taste of what the movie is about. It doesn’t matter if the title is one word or 10, they are all equally challenging.

Have a browse of our favourites this week; some translations are arguably better than the originals!

1. Grease
Argentina: Vaseline







2. The Parent Trap
Germany: A Twin Seldom Comes Alone

parent trap





3. The Dark Knight
Spain: Night of The Knight

dark knight






4. Knocked Up
Peru: Slightly Pregnant







5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Israel: It’s Raining Falafel
Turkey: Raining Kofte






If you have come across any other interesting translations we would love to hear them. Click here to send a message to the Live Translation team.

Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

This week we have noticed that beverage companies have seriously struggled to translate their products and slogans. Here’s a handful of translation faux pas that made us chuckle.


Bacardi spent huge amounts of money launching its new spin off drink across Europe, to a young and funky crowd. They called it Pavian. Unfortunately, they didn’t realise that Pavian means baboon in German. Hardly a lifestyle choice.









When Coca-Cola decided to enter the Chinese market, they had their famous brand name rendered in Chinese characters. Regrettably, it came out as bite the wax tadpole or female horse stuffed with wax, depending on the dialect of Chinese used.









Pepsi Cola

Pepsi had a similar experience in the Chinese market. Where they tried to translate their successful slogan Pepsi gives you zest for life. Sadly, it went a little wrong and came out as Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave. Not really the message they were hoping for!









For help communicating across borders or seas, visit to see the range of translation services available.

Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

Another way to highlight the poor quality of free online translators is to translate your text into multiple languages, one after the other.

For example, from English to French, to Spanish and back to English. If a professional translated a sentence, the meaning would be conveyed in the translation. So, in theory you could ask professional translators to translate a text back and forth infinitely without losing the meaning. Not that you would ever do that!

So if we translate “Hello, are you busy tonight?”flags

From English to Japanese… ねえ、あなたは今夜忙しいですか?

Then to Spanish…Hola, usted está ocupado esta noche?

Then into Chinese… 你好,你今晚忙吗?

Then Italian… Ciao, stasera impegnato?

And then into French… Bonjour, ce soir, occupé?

Then back to Japanese… :こんにちは、今夜は、忙しい?

And finally, back to English, we get… Hello, tonight, busy?

If you only understand English, you can see that the meaning has changed from Hello, are you busy tonight to Hello, tonight, busy? The sentence no longer flows and doesn’t sound fluent. If you understand any of the other languages that we used in between, this highlights that a free online translator is not of high quality. If you are thinking of having some text translated, but are worried about the costs involved. Head to where you will find over 1500 affordable, professional translators online now!


Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

A good translation will clearly convey your message in another language. It should be of the same tone and level of formality whilst still being appropriate for the target language. A terrible translation can mean many things; the message can be incomprehensible, the message can be lost, or the translation can be of poor quality.

You will know from reading the menu at a local takeaway that the translation can come across as if something isn’t quite right, but you still understand what is on offer.

chinese menu

Any written correspondence translated without expertise, can lead to similar results. Here are some of the terrible translations we found this week.

  • In a Turkish to English translation for a clothing advertisement:

“We are this garment with complete satisfaction, for it’s made the NBA to give complete ovality.”

So, yes we understand that they want you to be satisfied. Just. But do we really want to buy an article of clothing that will make us look oval? We’ll pass on that one.

  • In a Spanish to English translation on a food vendor’s sign: “scum” flavoured ice cream was advertised.

Now, for the adventurous type who always choose the item on the menu that they have never had before (or never heard of!) this could be a winner. For the other 99% of society, it is a certain no-no.

scum ice cream

  • In a German to English translation on a clothing care tag: “Washing from left side.”

Hmm, this had me for a moment. Should we be washing this item inside out perhaps? If you have any other suggestions we would love to hear them. Click here to send a message to the Live Translation team.

Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

This week we have a fantastic video to share with you!

Everyone knows the words to the Fresh Price of Bel- Air theme tune right?

Well, this clip shows us exactly what happens when these infamous lyrics are translated into the most popular languages in the world, and then translated back in to English using Google Translate.

Let’s see if we still recognise the song.

Click on the image below to watch the video.


you tube


Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

As you have seen over the last few weeks translation mistakes happen! But what happens when a company realises their mistake?

General Motors

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, the company was unaware that “No Va” in Spanish means “It won’t go”. Needless to say, the sales of this car didn’t really take off! Before long, the company realised their mistake and re-branded the car “Caribe” in Spanish markets.

A very expensive mistake indeed!



This Chinese “manicure set” looks very painful! Hopefully people can see that the tools are not for nails and buy it for its intended purpose, in fact non-English speakers may be blissfully unaware of the joke!

manicure set

Changing the packaging can be a costly process, but when the item is of low value I don’t think the manufacturers would have pulled the product off the shelves!

Paying for a professional translation could avoid a costly mistake, for affordable professional translations use LiveTranslation.

Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

cats and dogs

It is notoriously hard to translate sayings and slogans. These types of phrases have an implied meaning and if you translate them word for word, you are unlikely to make much sense!

For example the famous phrase, “it’s raining cats and dogs”.  It is obviously not raining animals, it is just an expression for a large amount of rain and that has to be reflected in the translation.

Tough, but not impossible!

A few famous brands have fallen victim to literal translations of their slogans over the years, here are just a few…


KFC got rid of its world famous Finger Lickin’ Good slogan just a few years ago. Unfortunately when this was translated in to Chinese the message of tasty delicious chicken was somewhat lost. Instead of the chicken being so good you had to lick your fingers, it was translated too literally and became “Eat Your Fingers Off!” Not only incorrect but also considered rather rude in China!



Braniff was a Dallas-based airline that made a mishap when translating a promotion. The slogan they used was “Fly in leather” highlighting that the airline boasted leather seats. However, the Spanish translation “Sentado en cuero” fails to imply that the customers will be sitting in leather seats, but suggests that they are sitting naked! Cuero is literally translated as leather, but also means hide, or even just skin.



Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

Automatic online translators such as Google Translate are notably unreliable. By looking for patterns in billions of documents, these free online services try to apply translations that have already been done by humans to your text. Google uses complex algorithms to make an educated guess as to the best translation, meaning that the output is based on a calculation rather than any form of linguistic logic. As a result, there are many mistakes.

Here is one of the terrible translations we found this week on Google…

French bad trans

In French Il prit ses jambes à son cou means that he took off in a hurry. The literal meaning is ‘he put his legs in his neck’, meaning he is running away very quickly. Unfortunately Google doesn’t seem to be aware of this expression, as a result it believes that instead of running away from something, the man in question took her legs around his neck!

I think Parker may have used a similar free translator for their ball point pen campaign in Mexico.

In English the slogan was…. It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you


Unfortunately in Mexico, the message read “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.”

The word embarrass which should be “avergonzar” in Spanish, had been incorrectly translated as the word for pregnant “embarazar”.

It is still a pretty good USP! I wonder how long it took for this ad to be pulled?

Terrible Translations

Tuesday’s Terrible Translations

A comical blunder on this Starbucks sign.

Unfortunately “éxito” actually means “success” in Spanish.

Success here?! I am surprised this queue isn’t longer!

Terrible Translations 2

This notice on a ceramic dish indicates that it should be washed by hand.

“Handwashing recommended”

However the French translation “Il est conseillé de se laver les mains”  is suggesting that the user washes their own hands rather than washing the dish by hand!

Oh well, it could be worse…

Terrible Translations 3








US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton famously gave a reset button to her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. It was supposed to symbolise the resetting of their relationship.

Quite a nifty idea, if the translation had been accurate!

Unfortunately her team chose the wrong word, the term they chose “peregruzka” actually means “overcharged” rather than reset!

As you can imagine, it didn’t go down well. I hope some staff members were reset after this blunder.