When translation works as it should, with native, professional translators producing the document in the target language, companies are able to reach out to audiences around the world in order to convey the message they wish to delivery. However, when translation goes wrong, it can have embarrassing results. Here are some examples that show the value of always using a native, human translator in order to fully understand the impact of your slogan in other languages.
The American Dairy Association’s ‘Got milk?’ campaign did wonders for milk sales across the US. However, it didn’t translate so well down in Mexico, where the phrase translated as ‘Are you lactating?’
Back in the 1960s, Pepsi made a famous blunder with their ‘Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation’ slogan. The marketing campaign turned Pepsi into the drink that all the hip young things wanted to drink… except in Taiwan. In Taiwanese, the slogan was delivered as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.’ Hardly what one looks for in a fizzy drink!
American Airlines used ‘Fly in leather’ to promote their luxurious leather seats in first class. Unfortunately in South America the slogan translated to ‘Fly naked,’ which was not quite the message the company had been trying to get across.
Schweppes may have thought that it was doing Italy a favour by introducing tonic water to the country. However, with a literal translation of ‘toilet water,’ the product wasn’t received quite as well as they had hoped.
Suffer from diarrhoea
One of the most embarrassing lost in translation mishaps was the slogan from Coors beer, which in English was ‘Turn it loose.’ Sadly in Spanish this was converted into ‘Suffer from diarrhoea.’ Enough said!
What are your favourite famous translation blunders? Have you come across any that aren’t covered here? Let us know via the comments.