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  • Photo du rédacteurLaura Vuillemin

An Anthology of Bad Translation Choices From Various Countries

DISCLAIMER: My aim here is in no way to make fun of any country. Also, the fact that more pictures were taken in Portugal is pure coincidence. The point here is to show you examples, not to target any nation specifically.


I am an avid traveler (well, used to be, given the current COVID-19 situation).

When I visit foreign countries, I can’t help scrutinizing all the translations I come across. A habit that comes from the job!

I take pictures of the oddest ones, and here are a few I would like to share with you. Some, if not all, will probably make you smile. However, my point is to show you how crucial it is to have translations done by those who master them the most: professional translators.


❇️ Extract from a menu 🤔

The idea of the Portuguese source is well conveyed in English. Unfortunately, in French, that’s another story...

If we translate it word for word, the current French means An evening party with obedience is taking place [opening times].

How can cozinha (kitchen) become soirée? And while obéissance, even if completely inaccurate here in French, can probably be linked to obedece, the remainder of the sentence is a mystery to me!

❇️ Sign in a museum 🤨

How could sobre (on) become in and dans (in)? Also, I wonder how nada turned into this rather informal (and inaccurate) n’importe quoi (anything)?

❇️ Billboard on a museum’s façade 🧐

Here again, the English is fine, but how are we ending up with this odd Art Croix in French (literally Cross Art) when the Portuguese is sacra, and when a corresponding term actually exists in French (Art sacré)? And why add an article before archéologie?


❇️ Crisp can 😐

I had a good laugh when I read this list of ingredients. It indeed contains a term that does not exist at all in French, croquets. We do eat croquettes, but they have nothing to do with crisps.

I also like how Ingrédients became Ingrédientes. Why add an E here?

🇬🇷 GREECE 🇬🇷

❇️ Extracts from a magazine 😱

I think the French (and even the English) speaks for itself... This was published in a magazine and translated from Greek. Definitely my favorite "translation blooper" ever! Perfect to lift my spirits when I feel a little down.

NB: The first extract is about the sun, and not some supernatural entity or so 🤭

🇱🇦 LAOS 🇱🇦

❇️ Sign in a street 😌

French speakers will agree that grammar and spelling could be polished a bit here. I’m afraid verbs do not end with g when they are conjugated in the imperative, and pourqu’ hasn’t entered French dictionaries yet!


All this is funny, at first sight. However, it is also sad and concerning. Translators are essential and no machines or self-proclaimed linguists (those "I-can-do-the-job-because-I-spent-three-weeks-in-the-United-Stated-and-returned-bilingual" kind of people) will ever replace professionals 🙅‍♀️💪

If you want quality, turn to a specialist!


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