Keeping an Eye Out for Bad Translations

How One Dodgy Translation Can Harm Your Business Brand

Bad Translations Hurt BusinessWhile you always want the best translation you can get, the world doesn’t always deliver. Budgets, schedules and inexperience often get in the way causing the end result to be pretty strange! And even though a Chinese bomb-sniffing dog with the translated phrase “explosive dog” written across its doggy vest (a great example of English Chinese translations gone wrong) might tickle your funny bone, at the end of the day bad translations can actually do a lot of harm.

How Bad Translations Hurt Business

Apart from the confusion or physical danger a poorly translated sign or announcement might pose, like a sign telling you to “slip and fall down carefully” or “please don’t be edible,” shoddy translations can create other problems as well — especially in the image and branding department.

Poorly executed English Chinese translations can lead to Chinglish (and the many lists making fun of this mutated form of English), just as less-than-stellar English Spanish translations can lead to Spanglish, which is “not quite English, not quite Spanish,” as defined by the Urban Dictionary.

Slapdash translations can really damage a company’s brand — from a small tech concern to a multinational backed by a powerful government. If you can’t even get the language right, what does that say about your product? This is why employing a translation agency committed to accuracy and in-country proofing for branded content, press releases, web localization and a host of other translation-related services can help protect your company’s international image, regardless of the language you happen to be working in.

The Chinese Government Weighs in on English Chinese Translations

Bad translations can be so bad for a business venture’s image that the Chinese Government (often run like a massive business) wants to improve English Chinese translations in China — and do away with Chinglish all together. Apparently the higher-ups in the Communist Party don’t like people compiling lists and laughing at some of the bizarre English Chinese translations people stumble upon while traveling around China.

A brand new English Chinese translations standard will be implemented later this year, with the aim of boosting translation quality by providing (translated) lists of thousands of terms and phrases already in common use. According to China’s People’s Daily, “The standard requires that English not be overused in public sectors, and that translations not contain content that damages the images of China or other countries. Discriminatory and hurtful words have also been banned.” (Once upon a time, Xinhua’s Park of Ethnic Minorities was translated into English as “Racist Park,” which was helpful to no one.)

Of course languages evolve, mix with other languages and pick up foreign vocabulary over time. Perhaps this is the case with Spanglish in the United States and some English Spanish translations. But a good translation agency knows the difference between the playful use of a language, regional dialects and variants of a language, and just plain old bad translations.

And this is why when branding, translating technical materials or diving into web localization, you should always go with a translation agency committed to delivering quality (and rigorously proofed) translations every time. It’s best to leave those dodgy Chinglish or Spanglish-style translations by the roadside.


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