TRANSLATION <-> INTERPRETATION
  SERVICES

    Following the essay dealing with Spanish dialects, please read the examples of Silly Translations gleaned from around the world.  They should provoke a chuckle or two, and I hope they'll prove the value of correct translations that take into account the cultural aspects and contexts of languages.

The Myth of Spanish Dialects

Since I've been in this translation business I keep hearing a concern from certain clients referring to "dialects of Spanish."  With this term, my clients have expressed their fear that there are such significant differences between variations of Spanish from one setting (read "country" or "region") to another that mutual understanding and therefore communication will suffer.

I hope to allay these preoccupations here.  Most if not all Romance languages are standardized by official "Academies" established during the European Renaissance.  Beginning with the Academia Di Orusca in Italy in 1582, and followed by the Académie Française in 1634 for French and the Real Academia Española in 1713 for Spanish, these sanctioned bodies are charged with determining which expressions are allowed to be included in their respective languages.  They all publish official dictionaries that are used by educators, reporters, linguists and all sorts of other wordsmiths as a foundation for their work.  These academies provide a reference source and establish a standard for a particular language. 
Of course there still exist regional variations that add color and spice to the languages;  however, thanks to these academies, there does exist a uniform Italian, French and Spanish which is understood by all people fluent in that language. The most salient linguistic regional differences are relegated to the categories of accent and pronunciation, which have absolutely no impact on the written page. Other manifestations of regional differences can be seen in music, clothing, folk arts, cuisine and expressions of an informal and interpersonal kind.  Unless your documents deal with the cultural aspects of very specific and limited areas, the language that will be used will be of the standard variety.  Regional discrepancies of language just don't manifest in the documents you want to have translated.

Since the English language lacks an official sanctioning body, expressions become acceptable through usage rather than scholarly debate.  This may allow for frequent changes to a greater extent than with languages established by national academies.  Of course, with the advent of nearly universal and virtually instant modern communication, uniformity is becoming more and more the norm for all languages.

Please see what Gerald Erichson has to say about what I claim above at his site "about.com":  http://spanish.about.com/library/weekly/aa030600b.htm.  The second entry on page 2 refers to my topic regarding dialects of Spanish.


To Return to the Home Page:
Please Click Here


Silly Translations

Intrigued by "machine translation" that is performed by a computer?  Check these results when common English expressions were fed to a computer to translate to a foreign language, and then back again to English.

"Out of sight, out of mind" became..."Invisible insane"
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" turned into..."The wine is good, but the meat is spoiled"   

A few fun examples of what can happen when translations are performed without regard to cultural context.  Enjoy...

Welcome to Our Inn

In a Bucharest hotel lobby: "The lift is being  fixed for the next day.  During that time we regret that you will be unbearable"
In a Paris hotel elevator: "Please leave your values at the front desk"
In a Yugoslavian hotel:  "The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid"
In a Tokyo hotel: "Is forbidden to steal hotel towels please.  If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notis"
In a Kyoto hotel: "You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid"

Would you like  to get away from it all and relax?... consider the brochure for the hotel at the hot springs in Miravalle, Costa Rica that suggests: "Libérese de Estrés en un Ambiente Natural" (i.e. "Free Yourself of Stress in a Natural Setting") while inviting its readers of English to "Stress Out in a Natural Environment."  Thanks to Sophia Klempner.


... and this is our fare...

A Swiss menu boasts: "Our wines leave you nothing to hope for"
A Shanghai Mongolian hot pot buffet guarantees: "You will be able to eat all you wish until you are fed up"
An Indian restaurant advises that: "Our establishment serves tea in a bag like mother"
The menu of a Tokyo restaurant offers: "Special cocktails for women with nuts"
A Torremolinos eatery informs: "We highly recommend the hotel tart"
An Acapulco restaurant promises that: "The manager has personally passed all the water served here"

While shopping...

In a Hong Kong supermarket: "For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service"
In a Bangkok dry cleaner's: "Drop your trousers here for best results"
Outside a Paris dress shop: "Dresses for street walking"
In a Rhodes tailor shop: "Because is big rush, we will execute customers in strict rotation"
In front of a Madrid travel agency: "Go away"
In the Leningrad airport: "This is Leningrad airport and you are welcome to it"

 

The Dairy Association's huge success with the campaign "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico.  It was soon brought to their attention the Spanish translation read:  "¿Tiene leche?" which also means "Are you lactating?"

The Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."

Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick," a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure.  Not too many people had use for the "Manure Stick."

When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the smiling baby on the label.  Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the labels of what's inside, since many people can't read.

Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious pornographic magazine.

An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit.  Instead of "I Saw the Pope" [el Papa), the shirts read "I Saw the Potato" [la papa].

Pepsi's "Come Alive With the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave" in Chinese.

The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Kekoukela", meaning "Bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect.  Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent "kokou kole", translating into "happiness in the mouth."

Frank Perdue's chicken slogan, "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken" was translated into Spanish as "It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate."

When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." The company thought that the word "embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant"

When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first class seats in the Mexican market, it translated its "Fly In Leather" campaign literally, which meant "Fly Naked" [Vuela En Cuero] in Spanish.

    Mr. Mick Harper from Channel M of the Canadian Multivision Television (http://www.channelm.ca) contributed these gems:

The Canadian home improvement retail chain “Rona” wanted to run a campaign in Punjabi. Their slogan was “For expert advice and more, count on Rona”. Problem was, in Punjabi the word “Rona” means “crying”. So ‘for expert advice and more, count on crying’ wasn’t exactly the message they wanted to get across. The Punjabi campaign was cancelled.

In the 1970s, General Motors had a great deal of success with its muscle car, the Chevrolet Nova. They decided to start producing and selling these cars in Mexico. But ‘no’ and ‘va’ translated into Spanish means ‘doesn’t go’.

Buick also offers its “Lacrosse” SUV in Canada, where “Lacrosse” is the national sport (although hockey may be the country’s national favourite pastime). But in the French-speaking province of Quebec, the word lacrosse can also be a slang word for ‘masturbating’. We’re not sure if lacrosse is still the national sport of Quebec, but one thing’s for sure… the Buick Lacrosse is not available there.

A cocktail lounge in Norway declares:
"LADIES ARE REQUESTED NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN IN THE BAR"

A Nairobi restaurant invites:
CUSTOMERS WHO FIND OUR WAITRESSES RUDE OUGHT TO SEE THE MANAGER

A hotel in Moscow located nearby an Orthodox monastery encourages:
VISIT THE CEMETERY WHERE FAMOUS RUSSIAN AND SOVIET COMPOSERS, ARTISTS, AND WRITERS ARE BURIED DAILY EXCEPT THURSDAY.

In Hong Kong, a dentist promises:
TEETH EXTRACTED BY THE LATEST METHODISTS

A laundry in Rome offers:
LADIES, LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES HERE AND SPEND THE AFTERNOON HAVING A GOOD TIME

A tourist agency in Czechoslovakia reassures:
TAKE ONE OF OUR HORSE-DRIVEN CITY TOURS.  WE GUARANTEE NO MISCARRIAGES.

Donkey rides in Thailand allow certain options:
WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?
 


    I realize that if you were well versed in both English and Spanish you would not require my services, and, by the same token, that you may not be in a position to judge my work.  To that end I encourage you to contact my former clients and to present my work to someone whose judgment you trust.



 

Please stay in touch by any of the means you prefer... I'd love to hear from you.

Alain Gelbman
P.O. Box 527
Blodgett, OR  97326
U.S.A.

Tel: (541)456-4891 -- Pacific Standard Time

Fax: (541)456-4891
(Please phone or e-mail before transmitting your fax,
so I can prepare my computer to receive it.)

E-mail: alain@SpanishEnglishTranslations.com


To Return to the Home Page:
Please Click Here