Almost everyone has experience of language barriers that hinder communication. Poor translation can often lead to misinterpretations and confusion – but they can also have very humorous results, such as these examples collected from around the world…
In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
In a Moscow hotel: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday.
On a Swiss restaurant menu: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.
In a Tokyo hotel: It is forbidden to steal hotel towels please. If you are not a person to do such a thing is please not read this notice.
In an Athens hotel: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11am daily.
In a Belgrade 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 then going alphabetically in national order.
On a Copenhagen airline: We take your bags and send them in all directions.
In a Bucharest hotel: The list is being fixed for the next day. During this time you will be unbearable.
At a Swedish Furrier store: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.
In a Budapest Zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.
These poor translations may be amusing – but they’re something you definitely want to avoid in your own business! To avoid misinterpretations, here are our tips for accurately translating from language to language.
Proofread and edit your documents
Many translation mistakes are simply caused by poor proofreading. Bad punctuation, typos and spelling errors can completely change the meaning of a sentence – so ensure you accurately edit your documents and communications.
Be wary of metaphors
Very few metaphors communicate clearly from one language to the next. Likewise, avoid idioms and phrases exclusive to your own language – most likely, they will not translate clearly or your translator will not understand their meaning.
Use dictionaries sparingly
Be wary of online dictionaries, automated translation tools and outdated references – also remember that dictionaries do not take context into consideration. A word when paired with another may have an entirely different meaning – something a dictionary is unable to clarify.