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Traitor translator – when the translation “sucks”

Traitor translator or slipping in translation, you choose but the truth is that we can never be too careful when translating. The job is not easy, as some people believe. So, in translation, all that stuff you frequently hear like “it is easy, and you do it in no time”, followed by haggling, doesn’t work. If you realized, this is neither easy nor quick. 

For this reason, it’s important to rely on the translations you need from a professional, preferably to a native speaker or at least someone who has been living for years in the country of the target language. Knowing in-depth the cultural content enclosed in words and expressions is essential and leads to fewer possibly upsetting mistakes. Even great companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Electrolux have already slipped in translation when trying to sell their products.

Pepsi, in the ’90s, launched an international advertising campaign with the slogan “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation”, but the way it was translated to China, made the Chinese understand that Pepsi was bringing their ancestors back from the grave, which led to a drop in sales. Coca-Cola in its turn, in New Zealand, translated only in part its slogan to the Maori language leaving the other part in English, and what would be a cordial “Hello, mate!”, to call the consumer’s attention, led to an awkward “Kia ora, Mate!” (Hello, death!). Electrolux also had an embarrassing experience when promoting its vacuum cleaner in English-languages countries. The Swedish manufacturer used the slogan “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”, regardless of the double sense of the word “sucks”, and risked jeopardizing the quality of their own vacuum cleaner… That really sucks!


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