Some of the errors committed by unwary and unqualified translators can sometimes be extremely hilarious, embarrassing and costly. Following are some examples of some famous mistranslations:
THE SEVENTY ONE MILLION DOLLAR MISTRANSLATION
In 1980, when Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in a passed out condition, the people with him struggled to explain his condition to the doctors because they spoke only Spanish. A bilingual paramedic translated “intoxicado” as “intoxicated.” A professional interpreter would have translated “intoxicado” as “poisoned” because it doesn’t carry the same connotations as “intoxicated”. Ramirez was thought to be suffering from food poisoning. He had in reality an intra-cerebral hemorrhage, but the doctors treated him for an intentional drug overdose. Resultantly, Ramirez was left quadriplegic. He was given a malpractice settlement amount of $71 million.
PRESIDENT CARTER ABANDONS AMERICA
In 1977 President Carter, on a visit to Poland, was reported saying things in Polish like “when I abandoned the United States” (for “when I left the United States”) and “your lusts for the future” (for “your desires for the future”), by mistake just because the Polish Interpreter provided to him was far from professional.
In 2009, HSBC bank’s catchphrase “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated as “Do Nothing” in a lot of countries. The bank had to initiate a $10 million rebranding drive to mend the damage
THE HORNED HEAD
The patron saint of translators, St. Jerome, wanted to translate the Old Testament into Latin from the original, instead of the Greek version that prevailed then. When he did so, he committed a serious mistake. When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai his head had “radiance” or “karan”. In Hebrew, “karan.” is written without the vowels, and St. Jerome had read “karan” as “keren,” or “horned.” This mistake kick-started a flurry of paintings and sculptures in which Moses is depicted with horns on his head.
THE SEARCH FOR SHENG LONG
A character in the Japanese video game Street Fighter II says, “If you cannot overcome the Rising Dragon Punch, you cannot win!” The phrase “rising dragon” was mistranslated as “Sheng Long.” because, in Japanese, the same characters can have different meaning. It was thought to be a new character of the game. Gamers went mad trying to find Sheng Long so that they could defeat him. Only in December 1992, it was revealed that there was no such character as Sheng Long.
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