Translation Bloopers

It is safe to say that most people who speak more than one language understand that there are certain idiosyncrasies inherent in each language. Sometimes it is difficult to accurately translate certain sayings and the end result can be comical.

In an Athens hotel there is a sign that reads: “Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. daily.” A sign for a Copenhagen airline reads: “We take your bags and send them in all directions.”

The most common errors in translation occur when attempting to translate idioms and sayings word for word. For example, “A quien madruga Dios le ayuda” would equate to the English expression “the early bird gets the worm,” but if translated word for word it would be “he who gets up early is helped by God.”

There also can be ambiguity with words. For example, an address can be a location or a speech. Many English words are homonyms, which can also lead to errors in translation. The word polish can be a verb meaning to make smooth or glossy, but it can also refer to the inhabitants of Poland or the Polish language.

Translators and subtitlers need to be aware of popular idioms and ambiguity of certain words in order to avoid an inaccurate translation. Here are a few humorous subtitling blunders that were found (information taken from Subtitling Worldwide).

In a subtitle "They sicked the dog on me" became "they caused the dog to be nauseated by me.”

In a subtitle where a man is sitting in a car someone said, "he cracked the window," meaning he opened it just a little bit. According to the subtitler, the man “smashed the window.”

“Wish him many happy returns for me.” This was translated as, "Wish him many more reincarnations."

A soldier was shot dead and another soldier closes his eyes and says, "Rest easy." The Dutch subtitle said: "Take a nice little break."