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Never Got Screwed by Mistranslation Again

Updated on August 15, 2016

Recently, it is reported that the staff of Samsung has reduced from 35.6 thousand to 8580, thus this phenomenon was explained to “escaping from China”. However, Samsung said that 8580 was the new employees of last year but not the number of the total staff. The media which reported this made a translation mistake. The mistranslation will undoubtedly cause reputation damage further to Samsung in Chinese market.

For enterprises, good translation can bring unpredictable intangible assets them. But mistranslation will lead to business loss, image frustration, brand damage, etc. For instance, when Mercedes-Benz firstly entered Chinese market, it suffered frustration by use of the brand name “Bensi”, because “Bensi” means “rush to die” in Chinese. Later, this brand was changed into “Benz” and won a lot of customers. And this brand name is using until today. Another example is Pepsi. Pepsi was also not so popular like today when it was debuted in China. The reason is that its slogan “Pepsi brings you back to life” was translated into “Pepsi brings you back from the grave!” Grave was not an auspicious word, thus undoubtedly was not welcomed by people, especially in China.

For Countries, translation mistakes may cause jokes at better; at worst, the relationship between Countries will be deteriorated as a result. BBC listed some great mistakes in translation history. On famous example is about a speech during the US President’s 1977 visit to Poland. The translator of Jimmy Carter mistakenly translated ‘desires for the future’ of Polish people into ‘sexual desire for the Communist party’. Then, the translator again turned “I left the United States this morning” into “I left United States, never return”. This really made the president awkward.

Later, the President used a different translator when giving a toast at a state banquet. But his pain was not ended. After delivering his first line, Carter paused, to be met with silence; after another line, he was again followed by silence. Since this translator couldn’t understand the President’s English, he just kept silence in order to avoid mistakes. Carter was then become the punchline for many a Polish joke.

Another example was in Cold War. In 1965, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev said, “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in”. But his translator mistakenly translated it into “We will bury you”, which further cooled the relationship between the Soviet Union and the West. The premier Khrushchev was screwed by his translator! After a few years, he clarified his statement, “Of course we will not bury you with a shovel. Your own working class will bury you.”

With the deepening of globalization, information interaction is more frequent than ever between Countries, enterprises, as well as people, thus translation becomes particularly important. Professional translation providers such as WE will inevitably play a key role to boost the progress. In order not to be screwed up by mistranslation again, it’s a better choice to resort to the translation providers with high-quality service.


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