Top 4 Common Business Translation Errors

Top 4 Common Business Translation Errors

Translation is a minefield at the best of times but whereas telling your Spanish penpal you enjoy ‘long walks along the massacre’ can be a tad embarassing, it is nothing compared to the lasting damage to finances and reputation that a business mistranslation can incur. From awkward social faux-pas to accidentally sinking huge deals, even the smallest translation mistakes have cost businesses money, clients and respect on a massive scale. Below are some of the biggest and most common ‘oopsies’ in the translation industry:

Cultural Nuances

Cultural views are key. In many languages, even something as basic as sentence structure and types of words changes depending on who you’re talking to. This isn’t just politeness – it’s almost a whole new language.

This has caused havoc with many novice Japanese speakers who, upon hearing many names ending in ‘-san’, then add it to their own name – which is very taboo in Japanese culture. Referring to yourself as ‘Mike-san’ or ‘Lucy-san’ is effectively saying ‘I am incredibly important’ and we all know what we think of THAT guy in the office.

There are also literally dozens of honourifics other than -san which convey varying levels of respect. Even not using one is a bold statement, essentially saying that you and your conversational partner are such close friends that you’re beyond that. Within business, it is not uncommon for each individual level of management to have its own honorific (such as ‘bucho’, meaning ‘boss/head of a section’ ).

Using the wrong one is a very embarrassing and insulting mistake.

Understanding politeness and cultural norms is important with any culture, but especially so in East Asia. Always make sure your translator understands the people behind the language or you’ll end up looking like the ‘bucho’ of all idiots.

Direct Questions

Asking questions in a foreign language is always a tricky business, especially in advertising. The California Milk Processor Board should have had this in mind when they launched their ‘Got Milk?’ campaign in Spanish towards the Hispanic market – instead of asking them if they ‘Got Milk?’ it instead accused them of lactating, effectively alienating a $1.3 trillion market.

Let’s see them milk some profits out of that one.

Top 4 Common Business Translation Errors 02Homophones and Homographs

Sometimes a single letter can make all the difference. Imagine the horror of discovering your hot date with Briar turned out to be a hot date with Brian. Likewise, there is a world of difference between ‘braking the car’ and ‘breaking the car’.

This was a tough lesson for Schwepps when they attempted a marketing campaign in Italy, with a mistranslation of ‘Schwepps Tonic Water’ appearing as ‘Schwepps Toilet Water’ on advertisements.


Literal Translation

This is pretty much the single biggest culprit for translation mishaps of all sizes. It is the number one golden rule for translators across the globe and the one most amateurs fall prey to – do not translate literally.

Imagine this – you’re about to go on stage for the performance of your life. Your father is with you backstage and he grabs you by the shoulder, leans in and says ‘Break a leg, kid!’. In English it’s an (admittedly odd) positive saying of support. Now, imagine you translated this literally into another language. Instead, your father leans in close and says ‘I hope you get injured, you tiny child!’.


Most commonly, these occur in direct translation for signage. It is not uncommon to see the sign ‘Do not touch yourself’ in small stores and stalls across China. This is not due to a sharp rise in perverts but is, in fact, a direct translation from the Chinese meaning ‘Please do not touch the items yourself’.

Online automatic translators are the single biggest culprits of this. Avoid at all costs! Pepsi famously learned this the hard way when they launched a massive ad campaign in China, with their literally translated tagline ‘Come alive with Pepsi’ coming out the other side as ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back to life’.

All of these mistakes are easy to make, but difficult to fix. The most important thing you can do is leave it to the professionals. As HSBC will tell you of their $10 million fix-up of a botched translation in an ad campaign – cheap translators are very, very expensive. Translate in haste, repent in leisure.

Get yourself a real translation agency. It’ll save you selling toilet water and hurling lactation-related accusations at your customer base. In the world of translation – quality is key.


Author Bio

Mike Parsons enjoys travelling and working with many different cultures. He currently works for, a company that cover a wide range of translation services in the UK .

How Technology Will Change Translation in 2016


This is a guest post by Alexander Zeller

How Technology Will Change Translation in 2016

Online translation tools commenced with the easily accessible Google Translate, which has now been out on the internet for 10 years, but it seems it hasn’t had that much of an impact on the demand for human translators. Most people believed that once translation tools were developed that would be an end to human translators. This doesn’t mean that machine translation is losing its momentum; it’s more the case that the two methods of translating now co-exist together.

However, the general trend in global business is for more and more businesses opening up their products to many more countries. Experience has indicated that it is of little use marketing a product to, for example, the Russian market unless at least some of the product information is written in Russian.

Terminology Banks

Some of the translation tools which are computer based help translators complete their translation tasks. A few of these are what are called ‘terminology management systems’ where useful terms are stored online in multiple languages so that the translator is only a click away when searching for the desired list of terms. These terminology banks allow translation divisions of an international organisation when allocating translation jobs to human translators that they can be assured that there is a standardisation of terms being used by a group of translators.

March of the Translation Apps

It is expected that throughout this year more apps will be released which will aid faster translations. There is a device that is currently being trialled and that is a translating earpiece. It allows people who don’t speak the same language to understand one another. This could theoretical reduce language barriers considerably.

A device developed and marketed by New York City company Waverly Labs is called ‘Pilot’ and is fitted into the ear. It has an in-built AP which is able to switch between languages. This language translation product is going to be introduced first of all in the main European languages: French, English, Spanish and Italian. The idea later is to load the device with other languages that are widespread, such as Arabic, Hindi, Slavic, Semitic and many African languages.

Pilot May Take Place of Google Translate

Apple fans love iPhone accessories so the Pilot is expected to be a winner as it has many smart language features. It works by using speech recognition so the person using one can hear and understand what another person is saying because the conversation gets translated into the user’s native language. Being what is called a wearable device it brings together this much loved feature with machine translation. It is quite possible that Apple fans will soon be deleting their Google Translate apps in favour of the Pilot iPhone app instead.

Apple is promoting the Pilot app well before the launch by giving away a free app every week. The actual launch date has yet to be decided. So far there has been unprecedented support for the product and crowd-funding is being sought to help in producing it and releasing it out on to the market.


Author Bio:

Alexander Zeller is a project manager and translator working with The Migration Translators in Australia, providing legal, medical, business, marketing, technical and website translation services in over 130 Languages.

Translation Services – How it helps to improve Today’s Global Economy?

This is a guest post by Albert Brown

Translation Services 01

Why translation services needed?

In general perception, global economy doesn’t come to our mind when we consider interpretation services. We normally think of it as somebody having a thorough knowledge of the root and destination languages, who helps others to understand some different languages and let the communication process flow between two or more people. Translation service has a huge contribution in helping people to overcome the language barrier. But did you know it also plays a significant part in boosting the global economy? For a company preparing to step into the global market, translation service is a must to function properly. Companies may be doing business on a giant scale in and around their local area but when they want to expand out, they’re almost unknown in their target market and require a lot of hard work to get themselves introduced. Interpretation services bridge the gap between these companies and locals of the target country. Without language services, it is impossible for a company to improve its own financial standing as well as contribute towards the global economy. To make a footprint in the global market, it is the first and foremost criteria for a company to join hands with a good translation service provider. It greatly enhances the client relationship along with helping it strengthen its position in the global marketplace.


Translation Services 02

Issue on the translation of Economics

In today’s world of information society and globalization, when global economy mainly depends on the distribution and production process along with communication and information, language services play a key role. Banks and other financial institutions operate in various languages to increase their customer base. Multinational companies release documents in various languages for the sake of service expansion and to reach every corner of the global market. With the increasing growth of “LCCS” or “low-cost country sourcing” where a company imports materials from the countries with lower production and labor costs like Brazil, China, India and Eastern Europe to decrease operational costs, the need of translating franchise agreements, contracts, financial documents, company documents and associated documentations is growing rapidly. Interpretation services occupy a centralized position in the prospective cross-border “M&A” (mergers and acquisitions) which mainly depends on effective and efficient exchange of information between all the involved parties responsible for the transaction. For addressing this, many research avenues are created that are connected to economic and technical translation services and the challenges related to it. Unlike other subject-related translations like technical translation and legal translation, economic translation has become an uncommon topic of special issues of TS (Translation Studies) journals. As an outcome, economic translation research is spread over various publications and aims at some chosen isolated issues. Such language services mostly focus on the economic terminologies.


Translation Services 03

Why is translation so important in the global economy?

Translation applications act like important resources for both the translators and normal people and the sale and design of these apps and various web-paced platforms are a flourishing segment in the language industry. A translation project creates numerous job openings distributed among various platforms. Many language services companies that manage high volume translation projects employ not only translators but graphic/formatting artists, proofreaders, project managers and administrative staff who look after the project requirements. Hiring of such professionals is done by scouting for talent across the globe. All of this jointly contributes to a flourishing translation industry, which is forecasted to reach $37 billion by the year 2018 throughout the world.


Translation Services 04

Advice on language service

Communication languages usually undergo a change along with a change in the global business mode. Economic development has significantly impacted the popular communication languages used for international businesses. Accordingly, it has developed the popularity of admissions in various second language courses in universities and colleges. Though it’s difficult to talk about the exact way that would help someone learn a language as his/her second language, such learning does help to enhance the overall employability for sure. Spanish, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Chinese, American Sign Language, Russian, German and Portuguese are some of the languages worth learning.

Before going out to learn a new language, some important factors need to be taken into consideration. These include your future plans after learning the language such as availing a job in a global business, working overseas, becoming an interpreter or opting for a job in the government sector.


Translation Services 05

How translation improves the economy

Economic growth of a country depends upon various factors. One of the most significant factors that contribute to the economic development is the total count of industries that manufacture quality products or provide quality services. It has been observed that a country with developed economy helps the services and industries to grow rapidly. Thus, industrial development and economic development are dependent on each other. The translation industry, especially the business and technical translation services sectors, have developed rapidly over the last few years. This sector has excellent growth opportunity, especially in the countries where each day a new business avenue is opening up in the market and opportunities are overflowing as a result of globalization. The local markets too are flooded with foreign products and a significant number of foreign countries are rendering their services in these local markets. It has been observed that in a developed economical condition, the cross-border exchange is not merely restricted to products and services. Rather, it extends to a significant amount of cultural exchange as well. This exchange is directly connected to economic development. After all, more economical development means more cultural exchange. Interpretation services play a key role in bridging the gap between two cultures, thus helping in the exchange of literature, knowledge, services and products and much more.


Author Bio:

Albert Brown, passionate writer & translation consultant. He is fond of reading about different cultures & traditions being followed across the world. He loves visiting new places and learning different languages. Reading and writing about the importance of language and its variations is something that keeps him busy during free time. Guiding people about the right source is something he is known for. Find out more about Albert’s company – Translation Excellence here.

Tess Whitty is now an ATA Certified translator for English into Swedish

Tess Whitty, of Swedish Translation Services is happy to announce that she is now a certified English-Swedish translator, having passed her certification exam from the American Translators Association.

ATA Certified

ATA Certified

ATA has established a certification program that allows translators to demonstrate that they meet certain standards of the translation profession. The certification offers qualified and independent evidence to both translator and client that the translator possesses professional competence in a specific language combination. It reflects an individual’s strong commitment to the profession and its ethical practice.

Apart from the ATA Certification, Tess Whitty is also certified by the Institute of Translation and Interpretation in UK and the US State Language Department. All three certifications, plus over 13 years of experience as a translator means that she is both professional and able to provide high quality translations for your company.

She is looking forward to helping you with your translation needs! Contact her at for more information or a free quote.

Going Global? Translators can help you Break the Barrier of Language!

This is a guest post by Alexander Zeller


It might seem a heady dream for any business to contemplate expanding past their normal commercial frontier, especially if they think they have something that can beat the socks off the competition that exists already.

For any would-be global business there is of course an important hurdle – the barrier of language. It’s hard to break this barrier without considerable investment in marketing the product the business wishes to sell. It’s one thing having a great website, for instance, and fantastic advertising using the full range of media in one’s own country, but who is going to understand it all elsewhere? Even when the language is as international as English, the reality is that many potential customers only relate to messages in their own language.

When the business is based in a nation whose language is limited geographically, those language barriers are considerable. How does a Turkish company get its sales message across when practically no-one speaks Turkish outside Turkey? How does a Swedish company get its message across when no-one speaks Swedish outside Sweden?

The answer is the use of a good translation service to break the considerable barriers to success that language can impose. It’s not just a matter of using an app. to make a rough translation of your website and any other marketing material, packaging instructions and so on. That sort of level of translation is fine for casual communication. If you are a business person, for instance, who wants to be understood when travelling abroad for a conference or a meeting, using computer aided translation is fine. It’s a different ball game when making your product accessible and available to a wider global market. Customers are choosy. They are unlikely to be convinced that a product is worth buying if the translation is amateurish or poorly done, or even worse, culturally insensitive.

The choice of a good translation service is important for the would-be global business looking to expand their market beyond the language barrier. It’s important to choose a translator that is used to translating marketing material and has expertise in the language or languages you need for the new market targeted. It may not be so obvious just how important it is to get the marketing message across to a specific target group. Are they male or female? Are they young or old? Is there a dialect to consider? Marketing messages need to tune into the idiom of the market.

Once a translator is found or translation service that fits the bill, it’s important to provide sufficient information about exactly what you want translated and how you want it translated. Effective two way communication between you and the translator is really crucial to get the best out of what you will be paying for.

Alexander ZellerAlexander Zeller is a project manager and translator working with The Migration Translators in Australia, providing legal, medical, business, marketing, technical and website translation services in over 130 Languages. 

Vacationing in Sweden?

Midnight Sun in Sweden: Credit: Tomas Utsi/

Midnight Sun in Sweden: Credit: Tomas Utsi/


I usually go to Sweden every summer for 1-2 months, but sadly not this year. Instead I will go water my roots in Sweden during Christmas time. However, I highly encourage everyone to go visit Sweden, especially in the summer, to experience the light summer nights and the beautiful nature. I have previously written about doing business in Sweden. If business is taking you to Sweden, take some time to enjoy some vacation there too.

To prepare you for your visit, I wanted to share an article from CNN: 10 things to know before visiting Sweden. Read it and be well prepared.

Swedish Translation Services will be out of the office June 4-22 but will be back in business again after that, ready to work when most other Swedes take vacation, i.e. in July. By that time I will also have finished my Swedish writing course and can hopefully provide you with even clearer, more convincing, high quality texts in Swedish, especially in IT, marketing and corporate communications.

Have a wonderful summer!

How Swedish Translation Services focusing on improving her writing skills

Skrivtips och språkvård

Skrivtips och språkvård

In order to provide better services to my clients, I have focused on improving my writing skills this spring. I am taking an online course in Swedish writing skills called “Skriv tydliga texter”, with a book and exercises that are evaluated. Earlier I also took a writing course for English on Udemy to make sure I am keeping my writing skills top notch and can provide my clients top notch texts that are targeted to the reader and easy to understand. Now I cannot wait to dig in to more Swedish marketing texts, corporate communications, product descriptions, surveys and more.

I also recently returned from attending two translation conferences, the ITI Conference in Newcastle, England and the BP15 Conference in Zagreb, Croatia, where I also presented on social media for freelance translators. I attend these conferences to network with my colleagues and find co-working partners, but also to improve my skills in translation technology, get new business tips and improve my craft and business as a freelance translator. My clients will benefit by having an efficient, well educated and informed Swedish freelance translator.

Feel free to drop me a line if you want to know more about my Swedish translation services, how I improve my translation and business skills, or how I can help your company reach the Swedish market.

Here are my most important references/resources that I use in order to provide a good Swedish text:

Resources for good writing skills in Swedish

Resources for good writing skills in Swedish


What is localisation and how it can help your business?

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at

This is a guest post from Aniello Attianese from Language Reach. 

The world of business is changing rapidly. A trend towards globalisation and expanding businesses abroad, especially with the recent growth of internet, is something that I, working for a professional translation agency, personally see rather clearly. A lot of the businesses from every corner of the world, even small and medium sized, see a truly great opportunity in approaching new international customers and exploring new markets. Many business owners who require our professional translation services however do not realise that translating word for word sometimes simply isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the whole answer, especially when working on marketing material, such as websites; this is where localisation comes into play.

Companies and businesses around the world now spend great portions of their budgets each year for marketing efforts; paying close attention to crafting the perfect message, choosing the right colours or even the right font. But what if they were only to discover, that their perfect marketing material which worked flawlessly in one country, causes offence in another? Having marketing material which is culturally inappropriate will certainly cause more damage than good.

In simple words, localisation amends and adopts content, such as websites or brochures, in order for it to be suitable within a specific market by removing any local sensitivities. Global companies such as Apple or McDonald’s have values and ideas which they like to communicate to consumers across the world, without causing any misunderstandings within any country specific market. This is the reason each of their campaigns is not only very carefully translated, but also localised to suit their specific foreign target market.

American Airlines on the other hand are a perfect example of a company who decided not to trouble with localisation, and only to translate their marketing material word-for-word. After introducing their new stylish leather seats on the planes, AA came up with a slogan which in America worked perfectly fine: “Fly in leather”.  Not carefully localised for the Mexican market however, the message caused the operator to blush slightly as “Fly naked” wasn’t very appealing to the Spanish speaking customers…The lack of localisation in the above example is pretty obvious, and not only caused the airline to embarrassment but also to money loses.

Words however aren’t the only thing which can be a cause for concern if marketing material wasn’t carefully localised. Another great example would be the use of colours. Did you know, that in China the colour white is associated with death? Now, you wouldn’t want your products or services to be associated with such, would you?

Going back to McDonald’s example, you’ll be able to see good, if not great, use of localisation services. The fast food chain restaurant not only localised all of their marketing messages, but they also went a step further and localised their menus, which are perfectly localised for each of their markets. And so in New Zealand for example you will be able to order a Kiwi Burger while McDonald’s India offers chicken Maharaja!

Giving that both U.S and Sweden are rather specific markets, with different cultures, values and ideas, localising marketing material for the Swedish audience should really be a priority for any U.S business thinking of approaching the Swedish consumers. Taking into the account any local sensitivities such as religious, political or cultural differences can have a significant impact on the success of your brand in a foreign market, and although localisation simply cannot guarantee an instant success, the lack of it can guarantee instant failure.

Language-Reach-150x150Aniello Attianese comes from Pagani, Italy. He speaks Italian, French and German fluently and has just started learning Swedish. He currently works for Language Reach and Translation Services 24 as a translator and a project manager. In his spare time he enjoys travelling and good music as much as he enjoys learning languages.

11 examples of what can go wrong in translation of marketing materials

Do you know what your business slogans are saying to the world?

mistakeWith advances within social media and technology, word of mouth truly has become ‘world of mouth.’ Most businesses centralize their global Twitter and Facebook efforts. It has huge benefits, yet it also is vital that you have involvement at a local level; from those who really understand the marketplace language and nuances. We reside within a global economy and therefore it is critical that we have an understanding of our world. Here are 11 examples of translations of marketing material that went wrong:

  1. The successful ‘Got Milk’ campaign that came from The Dairy Association as utilized in Mexico brought lots of attention, as it translated into ‘Are You Lactating?’
  2. The company Coors Brewing’s campaign slogan ‘Turn it loose’ as converted to Spanish actually means ‘Suffer from diarrhea’.
  3. Clairol introduced a curling iron named ‘Mist Stick’ within Germany. Mist in German will be slang for manure. It turned out that manure sticks are not popular in Germany.
  4. Panasonic and Matsushita were to introduce a computer that had an Internet browser within Japan. They were supposed to run a massive marketing campaign utilizing Woody Woodpecker, the cartoon character. Their campaign was placed on hold as an American worker figured out that the translation actually was ‘Touch Woody – Internet Pecker.’ It’s bad in American slang.
  5. In China, Pepsi translated their campaign slogan, ‘Pepsi will Bring You Back to Life.’ In Chinese, this slogan means, ‘Pepsi will Bring Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.’
  6. In France, Colgate introduced toothpaste underneath the name Cue. That is, unfortunately, the exact same name as one ill-famed porno magazine.
  7. In Mexico, Parker Pen wanted its ads to parlay ‘It will not leak in your pocket and embarrass you.’ The company instead believed that the term ‘embarazar’ (to impregnate) was supposed to mean to embarrass, therefore the advertisement stated: ‘It will not leak inside your pocket and make you pregnant.’
  8. Frank Perdue’s statement, ‘It will take a rough man to make a tender chicken,’ is somewhat different within the Spanish language – ‘It will take a sexually stimulated male in order to make a chicken affectionate.’
  9. Braniff Airways had a desire to spotlight ‘Fly in Leather’ yet in Spanish it actually said ‘Fly Naked.’
  10. A Scandinavian vacuum cleaner, Electrolux, utilized the following within the United States: ‘Nothing will suck like an Electrolux.’
  11. In Southeast Asia, Pepsi lost its market share as it changed its vending machines from a deep blue to a light blue. Unfortunately, in Southeast Asia, light blue includes a symbol of mourning and death.

The lesson to be learned here is that mistranslations are sloppy marketing. Therefore, when translating your marketing material or anything business related, it is best to contact a professional translator. A professional translator will ensure that everything that is presented to the public is appropriate and suitable for the intended audience.

If you are marketing to Sweden, contact Swedish Translation Services to make sure that your slogans and marketing materials come across as intended.

Save money by providing your professional translator with good information

Background information

Background information

If you’re interested in expanding your business into Sweden, don’t make the costly mistake of neglecting to get a professional translator, preferably one certified by the MITI or a similar organization. I say “costly mistake” because trying to save a little money on Swedish translations can result in a lot of missed revenue by giving a less than optimal, or even an unprofessional impression with a bad translation, not communicating to your target market or translation mistake. This can even be the difference between success and failure. A better way of saving on translation costs is to provide your translator with good material: a description of your target market, an explanation of any jargon used in your industry, and a correct English version of what you want.

Target market

In many languages, different words are used depending on your audience. You might use different pronouns for speaking to children, for example, than you would use if you were speaking to adults. You’re buying translation services, so use the expertise of your translator, who knows this and a myriad of other subtleties of language. By telling her as much as you can about your target market, you’ll be allowing her to make decisions on syntax you haven’t thought of or might not be aware of.

Explanations and style

Every day at work, you use words that are familiar to you but mysterious to anyone who doesn’t do the kind of work you do. An accountant speaks of “costs” for example and distinguishes between “variable costs,” those that change proportional to the volume you produce and “fixed costs,” those that don‘t. He may further distinguish between “standby fixed costs,” those that occur by simply owning a factory whether you make anything or not and “program fixed costs,” those that are locked in once you decide whether to operate two shifts or one, for example. If it’s necessary or useful to use some jargon that your translator may not be familiar with in your copy, explain it. Have your copy read by someone outside your field to point out jargon that you may not even be aware you’re using.


English is a complex language with lots of rules of grammar. You think it’s easy because you speak it every day, generally with people who live near you and have the same level of education you have. But you could be making technical mistakes every day that don’t interfere with communication because they are generally accepted by you and your peers, but can shipwreck an exact translation. Get your English copy read by someone who understands the subjunctive case before you invest in translating it.

Using a professional translator is akin to hiring a professional electrician; it may cost a little more to pay someone for something you think you can get done cheaper, but is it cheaper if your house burns down because of something a professional would avoid? Save money on professional translations by providing your translator with a good explanation of your business and a good English starting point.