Tesco Translation Screwup Is No Laughing Matter

Tesco Translation Screwup Is No Laughing Matter

by Translation Guy on October 30, 2014
0 comments

It’s time for another installment of “Good Idea, Bad Idea.”

Good Idea: You can withdraw cash at an ATM at a Tesco Express in Wales.

Bad Idea: The machine also promised “Free Erections” in Welsh.

The sign in Aberystwyth was supposed to offer the bilingual English-Welsh information, “Free Cash Withdrawals,” but the Welsh speakers received a shock instead.

(Also unfortunate in my estimation was a Tesco spokeperson’s response when saying the sign will be taken down: “We appreciate this is a sensitive area.” I think he should have stuck with the word “subject” instead.)

While cases like this are funny to the Internet user, they are deeply embarrassing to the business affected and they only highlight the importance as well as the necessity of quality assurance and translation validation. Making sure the translation says what it is supposed to say and that it is expressed in the right way! Tesco will have to pay for removal of the old sign, installation of the new sign and probably for some PR as well. That is probably a lot more expensive than paying for a correct translation in the first place.

If Tesco had used Google Translate, then they certainly got more than they bargained for, but if they had used a professional translator (in this case I use the word “professional” loosely), then I am at a loss for words. That person should immediately be removed from the profession.

At home and abroad I have seen my fair share of bad English and Spanish translations. Multilingual restaurant menus in particular tend to provide a rich source of very bad translations, but thankfully, in my travels I have never come across a translation as bad as the Tesco mixup.

While some people think there is no such thing as bad press, I assume Tesco would beg to differ.

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