Famous Translation Mistakes

Speaking foreign languages is not enough to be a good translator or interpreter. Experts from Lighthouse Translations emphasise that translation is a special skill that you learn after you’ve learned a language. Even the best speakers sometimes get fooled by false friends or some linguistic or cultural nuances they are oblivious to. It doesn’t really matter when you’re among friends or having a casual conversation, but not everyone is this lucky. Some people’s mistakes were tiny, yet because of the circumstances, they are remembered by the world.

Famous Translation Mistakes

Cold War Heating Mistake

In 1956 Nikita Khrushchev gave an enthusiastic speech about the qualities of communism that nearly unleashed World War III upon the world. His words My vas pokhoronim were translated literally as we will bury you, but the interpreter didn’t mention (because he probably didn’t know) that it’s a Russian saying meaning we will survive/endure, so it was interpreted by the Americans as a threat. This little misunderstanding actually worsened the Cold War.

Chocolates for men

In the 1950s a chocolate company Morozoff in Japan decided to bring Valentine’s Day to the country, but their executive had misunderstood the American habit of giving chocolates to women. The company created the whole marketing campaign based on that mistake so the Japanese women thought that they were supposed to buy chocolates for men. This became a tradition, though now men also buy women chocolate, only one month later. 

Did you find it interesting and you would like to read more about translation mistakes that went down in history? Check out the infographic below provided by Lighthouse:

Famous Translation Mistakes Infographic

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