8 Funny Translation Fails That Publishers Should Avoid

translation fails and funny translations a sign

Looking for a laugh during a hectic day? Search #translationfails. Better yet, enter the name of a popular AI translation service to spur a few smiles. Yes, machine translation services have their perks. They are quick. Yes, AI services can translate words, phrases, and texts from one language to the next in a minute. They are accessible. AI translation apps abound in app stores and browsers. They are free. Still, one gets what one pays for. Publishers, which have large amounts of content, are tempted by low-cost translation services. Most importantly, AI services lack the human touch. Therefore, machine translation services make mistakes a professional translation service would not. Leaders who invest in quality services will avoid these funny translation fails.

Translation Fails Display Mixed Messages

translation fail

Photo Credit: Twitter

Moreover, proofreading is included in professional translations services. A review of the translation would have saved the cost of printing the sign. Imagine if this were a complex document? Besides that, the embarrassment of the error would have been caught before it moved to the internet for eternal life.

Translation Fails Can Affect Company Messaging

translation fail

Photo Credit: Twitter

Many languages have masculine and feminine distinctions assigned to their words. In Spanish, “driver” is translated as ‘conductor’ (masculine) or ‘conductura’ (feminine). A driver and a delivery person are distinct roles. Therefore, this job posting sign misses the mark. It’s a translation fail. Unless the writer is looking for a person to deliver a person from point A to point B.

Instructions Show Many Poor or Funny Translations


Photo Credit: Twitter

Therefore, pros know how to match vocabulary to their audience. For educational publishers, this understanding ensures high-quality instructional materials teachers can use. Business leaders need content that keeps people safe. Besides that, translated materials reflect the company. Typos are still typos no matter what language they are in. The credibility of the company takes a hit.  Most importantly, marketers need to know their campaigns translate across cultures. Additionally, leaders want to avoid the costs of reprinting mistranslated documents.

Falling into Autumn

translation fail

 Need to translate “fall protection” from English to Spanish? ‘Otoño protección’ popped up the first time. Good to go? Not quite. Otoño means “autumn” not to lose balance. Often there is much more meaning in a sentence than a one-to-one translation can capture. Machine services miss the mark on context, tone, and the other nuances. The industry-specific context seems ideal for AI services with its short sentences and common words. Jargon confuses AI. Besides that, when confirming this anecdote, Google Translate had added a verified by contributors note. Is it worth the risk for a translation fail?

Colloquial Sayings and Idioms can Show Some Funny Translations

saying fail

Colloquial sayings and idioms take first dibs for funny translation fails. When verifying these idioms in languages, Google translate uses contributors, not professionals to verify translations.  Most importantly, professional translation services provide research and localized content for correct translations. 

Blasts from the Past

translationfail matcha

Photo Credit: Twitter

Likewise, long-winded, poorly translated content loses readers. Besides that, machine translation services are more accurate in some languages than others. These flaws, funny translations, can lead to some embarrassingly long misprints. Professional translators stand behind the accuracy of their work. Pros know how to get to the point.

Number Counts Can Lead to a Translation Fail

funny translation leads to too much eggs

Photo Credit: Twitter

In addition, translation fails can make the headlines. Ask the Norway Olympic team. Their chefs received 13,500 more eggs than they needed due to a Google Translate error. As the reporter explained, in the Korean counting system, large numbers are based on units of ten thousands versus thousands. A simple syllable change can easily cause a mix-up.

Lost in Translation

saying fail

Direct translation does not always work. Poor translation impacts more than just a business marketing plan or employee safety.  Daily life tasks can turn into a new adventure. Here, a baby-changing sign takes on a brave new role. The meaning changes as it moves through the different steps being translated from the original language to the target language.

In sum, translation fails are funny to read. Yet, for publishers, these failures are embarrassing. Poor quality translated content diminishes a publisher’s image. Moreover, in today’s competitive marketplace, accurate content distinguishes one publisher from the next. Machine translation failures remind leaders it is good to hire professional services. Here at A Pass Educational Group, our translation team has the experience and expertise to translate your content in over 40 languages and with the highest attention to detail. For more specifics, check out our World Languages & Translation page and request information today.


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Who is A Pass?

A Pass Educational Group, LLC is an organization dedicated to the development of quality educational resources. We partner with publishers, K-12 schools, higher ed institutions, corporations, and other educational stakeholders to create custom quality content. Have questions?

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