Translation Mistakes


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As globalization sweeps through the world and blurs cultural boundaries, translation is more important than ever. While translation in the past was mostly associated with major events such as high-level political meetings and international book releases, it’s now much more common. To name just a few developments, people are traveling and migrating often, communities are diversifying, and companies are extending their reach to other countries. Proper communication in the face of different languages only becomes possible with translation. Technology has made this easier through apps like Google Translate and online language lessons, but human beings still lie at the heart of it, translating far better than any algorithm.

For the most accurate translation possible, experts such as interpreters and translators are regularly called in. But since translation is more art than science, making mistakes is still possible, regardless of skill level. For one, there are many words in any language that have no equivalent in another language. Complex expressions like idioms, jokes, and metaphors can fall flat and sound strange. Cultural differences add to the difficulty, with some phrases sounding fine in a language and offensive in others. For real-time interpreters operating in a high-stakes environment, the pressure is worse.

In fact, thousands of memorable translation mistakes have been recorded. Sometimes these only lead to awkward silence or a burst of laughter, and with a bit of luck, the underlying meaning can still be understood. However, there were mistakes in history that may have seemed extremely minor—and yet they led to disastrous consequences. For example, many politicians have had their statements translated wrong, and this led to uproar and even antagonism between nations. People’s health have also suffered drastically, with one man ending up quadriplegic because of a mistranslation in the heat of the moment.

Whatever the situation, accuracy is a must when it comes to translation. Otherwise… Well, check out these translation mistakes that have proven to be catastrophic:


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