Translators’ Hall of Shame: Part IV

Translators’ Hall of Shame: Part IV

by Translation Guy on October 4, 2016
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It’s time for another edition of: “And where was the quality control for those translations?” That’s right, another roundup of really bad translations. Today we’re looking at you Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Google and Mondelēz’s Milka.

When Good Phones Go Bad

Major phone companies haven’t been doing too well in the customer satisfaction department lately. Samsung’s batteries have been burning and exploding. And in Cantonese, they translated the Galaxy Note 7 as “a stick of penis” for Hong Kong.

Apple isn’t faring any better. Their recent launch of the iOS 10 update initially bricked many users’ phones. Also, Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the new iPhone 7 inspired lots of rage from customers, who actually consider this a robust downgrade.

To top it off, Apple joined Samsung on the bad translations for Hong Kong train. How? In Cantonese, their new slogan “This is 7” bears an unfortunate resemblance to “This is penis.”

A Secret Ingredient in Dubai’s Chocolate

I’ve seen chocolate with sea salt, chocolate with chilies, chocolate with lavender, chocolate with ginger and even chocolate with insects. But chocolate with alcohol? Dubai is having none of that.

After talk on social media about alcohol in Dubai’s Milka Oreo chocolate bars, the government investigated and tested the product for alcohol. No alcohol was found, so what was going on?

The culprit turned out to be a bad Arabic translation. The ingredient “chocolate liquor,” which isn’t actually liquor at all but a paste made from semi-solid cocoa, was mistakenly translated as two separate words. This resulted in the offending chocolate bar’s ingredient list including alcohol.

That’s a big no-no in Dubai. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam and Dubai is a Muslim-majority city. Alcohol is technically allowed for non-Muslims, but it’s highly regulated.

Needless to say, the Dubai Municipality issued a swift recall for the chocolate with bad translation.

Saudi Arabia Is Hating Microsoft Right Now

While automatic translation, like Google Translate and Microsoft’s Bing Translator, is known for its ease of use, it’s also known for some less-than-ideal qualities. Namely, a glaring lack of accuracy (“use at your own risk” would be an understatement) and the ability to easily enrage foreign countries with its crowdsourcing functions.

There was the time that Google Translate translated the “Russian Federation” as Mordor. Then more recently, Microsoft’s Bing Translator translated “Daesh” (also known as the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL, etc.) as “Saudi Arabia.”

Saudis were less than pleased, calling the translation insulting and even racist. Numerous Saudis called for a boycott of Microsoft and Bing.

In both cases, the companies involved “fixed” the offending translations, but it’s only a matter of time before another not-so-popular rendering crops up in automatic translation. There are some things that are just better left to the professionals and good quality control.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Here’s a humorous look at the new iPhone.

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