When a translation is so bad that it is funny.

August 12, 2013 § 39 Comments

Dear Colleagues,

Those of you who are regular followers of this blog know that I use original material for its contents. Today will be an exception as I decided to share with you a translation that is so bad that it has made it around the world provoking laughter and disbelief all over the planet.  I am sure that many of you have heard about it, and I have no doubt that some of you have seen it before.  It is an English translation of a Mandarin brochure given to a colleague while she was staying at this facility.  I do not know who translated it, and your guess is as good as mine; however, it is clear that regardless of who translated: human or machine, there was a total lack of knowledge of the basics of cross-cultural communication.

Let’s use this as an example of everything that can go wrong when you try to save money by hiring a bad “bilingual” individual or “employ” the services of a machine. It is also evidence of why it is necessary to understand the culture that permeates the environment of the target language.  Please keep all of these factors in mind as you read this “translation” even if you have to pause and compose yourself after laughing so hard.  And now, the worst translation ever:

Getting There:
Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

The hotel:
This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with them self.

The Restaurant:
Our menus have been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table, and fiddle with you.

Your Room:
Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity! You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.

Bed
Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

Above all:
When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope. You will struggle to forget it.”

Please remember, this is a great example that you can use with your clients when attempting to explain the importance of a good translation, and also, it is a great text to take to your next party.  Please share with us any other examples of poor translations you may have encountered during your career, even if they are not as dramatic as this one.

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§ 39 Responses to When a translation is so bad that it is funny.

  • Mia says:

    Well… Either the translator really hated the owners of that hotel… Or someone had a great sense of humor. It’s too good to be true🙂

    As a translator I sometimes entertain thoughts of smuggling smutty words into a translation… Especially if working on a legal text… at 3 AM, LOL.

    But seriously… how does something like this even happen????

    • The problem is that many companies don´t hire translators. They prefer to save a buck and give the job to someone who says that can do it for little money. I´ve seen the most outrageous things.
      Can you imagine
      a tourism agency offering “an excursion in a glue boat” or a tour called “Short Circuit”?
      a sign in the woods that reads “Show! Dangerous slope”?
      a sign in a hotel advising guests to leave their “values” at reception for they can´t be held responsible for their loss?
      I didn´t need to imagine anything, I just saw these “wonderful” translations

      • Chantal says:

        Yes funny but bitter true! Some French Translation made in Canada into manual of any common commercial product sale on the market that I read are so funny sometime!! I will post one next time it’s will call my attention! Yes they do not realize and it’s a a shame!!

  • Patricia says:

    I agree with Mia. This cannot be true, but it is very funny! I just cannot believe something so bad exists, though. Anyway, thanks for the laughs!

    • Jose says:

      well, it is true. The thing is translating from Chinese, for example, brings the most outrageous translations if they are not done by a professional that knows both the language and the culture.

  • Carmen says:

    I totally agree with Mia; it is just too good to be true but I guess this is the ” beauty” of Google translates or of any other translation machines that some are prepared to use instead of professionals and their experience.
    Thanks for the blog; it it very funny!

  • As I said: Managers have changed a lot lately!!! It’s a masterpiece of errors but it made me laugh so much!!!

  • This doesn’t read like a translation, and on a quick perusal I didn’t even see any grammar mistakes. It reads like a cleverly worded sketch written by a native English speaker to poke fun at possible translation errors.

    • Absolutely agree, there is no way someone could accidentally achieve so many innuendos

    • Carson Maynard says:

      Most definitely this is a deliberate joke. The “bed” section, for example, is clearly inspired by a list of funny hotel signs (equally lacking in corroborating evidence) that’s been roaming the internet since at least the late 90s

      Still funny though!

  • Teresa Garcia says:

    I seriously think this a joke, even the most inexperienced translator can’t do anything like this, just my opinion.

  • Teresa Garcia says:

    I am leaving you a message somebody send to me in my page.

    Estimado amigo,

    Estoy Barrister John Wilson, un abogado, y el abogado personal de MR.S.D, un extranjero que trabajaba con Shell International Company Aquí República de Togo, en adelante se denominará como mi cliente.
    estaba
    Como le interese saber, su contacto dando a mí por aspiración divina en la oficina de la Cámara de Comercio y Turismo en Lome-Togo como yo estaba pasando por algunos directories.I decidió ponerse en contacto con usted con el fin de defender tal magnitud negocio sin ningún problem.On el 31 de octubre de 2003, mi cliente, su esposa y sus dos hijos estaban involucrados en un accidente de tráfico a lo largo de la autopista
    Kara-Sokode mientras que llegan de vacaciones a Lomé. Todos los ocupantes del vehículo, lamentablemente perdieron la vida. Desde entonces, he hecho varias investigaciones para localizar a ninguno de sus familiares extendidos y esto también ha tenido éxito.

    Me pongo en contacto contigo para ayudar en la repatriación de los fondos por valor de $ 16,5 millones, (dieciséis millones quinientos mil dólares
    estadounidenses), dejada por mi cliente antes de que se confiscaron o declarada fuera de servicio por la empresa de financiación de la seguridad donde fueron depositados esta enorme cantidad. Dicho Finance Company Seguridad me ha emitido un aviso para proporcionar a los familiares o tenga su cuenta confiscado en el próximo veintiuno days.Since oficial de trabajo que he tenido éxito en la localización de los familiares de más de 4 años, busco su consentimiento para para presentaros como los familiares de los fallecidos ya que tienen el mismo apellido con mi cliente tarde, por lo que el importe de esta cuenta se puede pagar a usted.

    Por lo tanto, no voy a dejar
    de informarle que esta transacción es 100% libre de riesgo. Sobre la conclusión lisa de esta transacción, usted tendrá derecho a un 45% de la suma total como la
    satisfacción, mientras que el 5% se destinará a atender los gastos que puedan surgir durante la hora del traslado y también las facturas de teléfono, mientras que el 50% se ser para mí.

    Todo lo que necesito de usted es su honesta cooperación para que podamos ver esta transacción through.I garantía de que este será ejecutado bajo acuerdo legítimo que le protegerá de cualquier violación de la law.Upon la aceptación de esta propuesta, por la confidencialidad de esta transacción.

    Espero su respuesta urgente, indicando su interés completo en esta gran operación comercial a nuestro teléfono tanto trust.Your mutua y el número de fax se necesita para nuestra respuesta communication.Do fácil este correo electrónico a través de correo electrónico barristerjohn45@gmail.com de mi cámara

    Que Dios esté con vosotros.

    El es Fiel,
    Barrister John Wilson

  • Visit engrish dot com, It is a good site to find mistranslations (and waste time)😄

  • Reblogged this on Saracé Pacheco and commented:
    Fun for translators!

  • Natasha says:

    My favourite translation ever (from the foreign rights catalogue of a small French children’s book publisher) of a book called “What does a dad smell? What does a mam smell?”
    “A Dad smells…the grapefruit fragrance after shave…
    ….toasts and butter at breakfast
    ….clean and perfumed laundry…
    But sometimes it smells my pussy…”

  • Paola says:

    This is one of the best examples of a bad/super funny translation!

  • […] Dear Colleagues, Those of you who are regular followers of this blog know that I use original material for its contents. Today will be an exception as I decided to share with you a translation that…  […]

  • jarekad says:

    it kinda makes me wanna go there on holidays. mission accomplished.

  • @jarekad: I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed when reality would not meet the description🙂 But it’s very funny indeed, I had to share it massively!

  • melika says:

    The machine which did the translation… is really naughty!!! loool

  • Hilarious! Thank you for sharing. You’ve brightened up my day!😀

  • Zerra says:

    My dear friends! It’s too funny to be true! BUT! Come to Sochi and you’ll find plenty of such great masterpieces! Recently I’ve seen (instead of “push” and “pull”) “To itself” and “From itself” on the door of a drug store!

  • A bad translation sounds very funny! The importance of good translation is most obvious when things go wrong. A good translation is well written and well structured, without changing the meaning of the text.

  • Eric maitrejean says:

    My favourite one is from the menu at the Lyons airport restaurant: the “filet de St Pierre” (a piece of tender beef) became a “net of holy stone”! Not sure I want to taste this…

  • Danimiao says:

    Oh dear! I can’t stop laughing!!! I want to go there on holiday too, or maybe to Sochi, as Zerra suggests, and “to itself” the door open. AHAHAHAA!!!! Great!

  • Jukka Selenius says:

    i JUST WODER HOW FUNNY YOU WOULD WRITE IN FINNISH. THE ENGLISh SPEKING PEOLPE SEEM TO THINK THAT ENGLISh IS THE ONLY LANGUAGE EVERYBODY CAN TALK. IT SOUNDS SORT OF SELFISH

  • In China there are certainly numerous individual examples of this kind of thing, although I think as far as the above extract goes (if it is not, as someone suggested, an act of hilarious revenge by an angry translator!) someone’s simply had a bit of time on their hands and has strung together all the hotel-sourced funnies they could find in one of those compilation books. One carefully selected innuendo per sentence? Unlikely…and as mentioned by an earlier poster, there are no real grammatical or spelling errors. Believe me, bad translations from Mandarin to English rarely look so clean and, well, perfect as this! Someone’s been having a laugh…but hey, it brightened up everyone’s day, right?

  • […] Este blog enseña un ejemplo de la traducción del chino al inglés de un folleto turístico de un hotel. Aún cuando no podemos garantizar que sea una traducción hecha por un software resulta evidente que quien haya sido no era un profesional: https://rpstranslations.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/when-a-translation-is-so-bad-that-it-is-funny/ […]

  • Haha! Hilarious and often unexpected. I must say this must be one heck of a hotel to be saying these things. Thanks! http://www.communicaidinc.com/

  • Jacira says:

    Several decades ago I was living in Mexico when a US air conditioning company put up billboards overnight all over Mexico City that said something like, “Si usted está caliente, compre nuestro equipo de aire acondicionado para refrescarse”!

    It was all over the news – nation-wide! The billboards were pulled down quickly!

  • ANHPEARSON says:

    I never laugh so hard in my life until reading this translation!
    It is so true to the same reading on FB with poor translations from the machine too! That’s how I am finally learn: “You pay for what you get;
    agency is paying 3 cents to 5 cents a word, so this is what you get!” lol…
    ANH PEARSON-GHANI
    @LINKEDIN

  • Rahul Malik says:

    Its really very funny. this article shows why a good translation is important ?

  • Well, the hotel seems *very* interesting for certain kinds of people… but I’m pretty sure that’s not what the hotel owner wanted to express.

    Teresa, though obviously a scam, your mail is also pretty good. I like specially the part that says: “…su contacto dando a mí por aspiración divina” (loosely translated as “..your contact given to me by divine aspiration…” – Gog DID breath hard that day!)

  • […] Interpreters are being killed. Help save a life What Makes Something A ‘New’ Language? When a translation is so bad that it is funny Can Urgent Translation Be Excellent, Too? Donal McLaughlin’s Authors & Translators Top […]

  • Anou Mirkine says:

    this looks like a fake bad translation.

  • herman j farquhar says:

    love it. reminds me of the Turkish hotel that promised an ‘unforgiveable holiday’

  • […] across this website a while back, The Professional Interpreter, and I had to use the example from this post in class, just so that my students could realize how important it is for a practitioner in the […]

  • Molly says:

    Do you know which hotel this was?

  • […] Este blog enseña un ejemplo de la traducción del chino al inglés de un folleto turístico de un hotel. Aún cuando no podemos garantizar que sea una traducción hecha por un software resulta evidente que quien haya sido no era un profesional: https://rpstranslations.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/when-a-translation-is-so-bad-that-it-is-funny/ […]

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