On Halloween, we love to give people a little scare. And to a professional translator, what could be scarier than a translation error? Indeed, that’s their greatest fear. To put you in the mood for Halloween, this article presents some translation errors that will make your hair stand on end!


Translation errors sometimes have deadly consequences

Sometimes, translation errors cause a certain confusion or irritation in readers but are quickly forgotten. Other times, these errors have such serious consequences that they end up making history. For example, the dropping of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945 was caused by a translation error. In response to an ultimatum issued by the Allies, the Japanese prime minister used the word “mokusatsu” (which can be interpreted several ways) to indicate that his government would refrain from commenting. However, in the translation, this word was rendered as “ignore with contempt.” Irritated by the arrogance of this response, the Americans dropped the atomic bomb a few days later, causing the deaths of 140,000 people…


Translation errors: Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad

When translating, there are many very subtle linguistic and cultural nuances to grasp. Translators are only human. Despite their rigour and professionalism, translation errors sometimes slip into their texts. Sometimes, this is because of the translator’s lack of knowledge, while other times, it’s due to a lack of context (that is, the translator didn’t have all the necessary information to fully understand). And when machine translation tools get thrown into the mix, the result is often absolutely horrifying… Here are a few examples of translation errors that did serious damage to the images of some major companies:


“Va le tuer”: You may have seen this ad from TELUS in which the English expression “Go kill it!”, which was used in the sense of “Push your limits!” or “Go for it!”, was translated into French as… “Va le tuer”! An ad inciting us to murder? That gives us goosebumps!


Beware of ghosts: As part of an advertising campaign conducted by Pepsi in Taiwan, the slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” was translated as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back to life.” Ghosts? Run for your lives!


Cannibal sighting: When KFC opened its first restaurants in China, its slogan “Finger lickin’ good” was unfortunately translated as “Eat your fingers off!” Not very appetizing…


Preventable translation errors

Do you want to protect yourself against this type of monstrous translation error? The solution is simple: do business with SLRR Translation Agency, a professional translation agencythat will offer you translations that are accurate and – above all – tailored to your communication context.


Happy Halloween!

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