At Clothes2Order, we aim to help your business create a great impression through amazing quality and value clothing.

Other businesses aim to create a great impression by striving to create foreign language advertisements to attract new audiences. But even some of the biggest brands have made some cringe-inducing translation faux-pas on their mission to crack the international market. Here’s a short list of mistakes by some big brands who were more than laissez-faire about their translations…

 

1. Parker Pen Reassures Their Customers

When Parker Pen wanted to advertise their ballpoint pens in Mexico, they made one huge language error. The tagline was a straightforward “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” in English, but the Spanish translation was less than easy to understand. Customers were both horrified and amused when they read “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”  instead. “Embarazar” may look and sound like “embarrass”, but this false friend certainly doesn’t mean it.

parkerpen2

 

2. KFC Advertises More Than Just Chicken

The fast food chain’s successful world famous tagline became infamous when it was translated for a Chinese market. Instead of reading “Finger Lickin’ Good”,  Chinese consumers were told to “Eat Your Fingers Off”.

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3. Pepsi Enters The Spiritual World

Another dodgy Chinese translation, but this time for beverage giant Pepsi. Their successful campaign tagline “Come Alive With The Pepsi Generation”, allegedly translated as “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From The Dead”.

pepsi-756052

4.  Braniff Airlines Advertise A New Way To Fly

In 1987, Braniff Airlines decided to advertise their new luxurious leather seats in Spanish. The tagline “Fly in Leather” became “Vuela en cuero” which embarrassingly translated as “Fly Naked”.

Braniff_International_Boeing_747-100_Rees

 5. Schweppes Promotes A Refreshing New Beverage

When Schweppes wanted to promote their tonic water in Italy, it was mistakenly translated as “Schweppes Toilet Water”.

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There are claims that some of these blunders are exaggerated urban myths, and that in fact the reality wasn’t so disastrous. Whatever the reality, no business wants to make a translation error, however small it may seem,  as it can potentially cost thousands of pounds, lose vital custom and waste a lot of valuable time…

To avoid making these mistakes in your business, make sure:

1. You have more than one translator. It doesn’t harm to double or triple check an advertisement or webpage to make sure it’s been translated properly.

2. You understand the culture. What is okay in English may not be in another language. If you translate with care and cultural sensitivity,  you will gain the trust and respect of your target audience.

3. You are not a lazy linguist. It is vital to avoid copy and pasting into an online translation tool, however tempting it may be!

Do you know any failed translations that we can add to our list or have you experienced difficulties translating? Leave a comment below or tweet us @Clothes2Order

About The Author

3 Responses

  1. Mark Murphy

    There was an American soap manufacturer in the 50s that had a soap bar called ‘Silver Mist’.
    They decided to try selling it in other countries, without translating the name.
    It sold well everywhere apart from Germany, where ‘Mist’ means ‘Dung’.

    Reply
    • Anna Palmer

      Great share! Sounds like it didn’t go down too well…definitely not something I would like to be smelling of after a bath!

      Reply
  2. Steven M

    It was not a soap manufacturer that offered the “Silver Mist”, it was automobile manufacturer Rolls Royce. There is evidence that the marketing people knew very well what it meant, and sold it anyway.”

    Reply

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