It’s a very common misconception that translation is easy, and anyone with a bit of knowledge of a language can translate. However, there could be some very weird outcomes though when something is translated in this manner. Translation is a serious job, and when it comes to professional translation, it becomes critical that the translator has native level proficiency in the language in which the content is being translated.
For this reason, there’s always a need for professional translators. Did you know that the size of the size of the global translation industry was US$33.5 billion in 2012, which is expected to grow to US$37 billion by 2018? These figures prove that translation is not a side job that can be done by any amateur. It’s a billion-dollar industry that continues to grow despite the technological advancements such as machine translators. So why is the translation industry growing so rapidly and why should you hire a professional translator for your company?
The reasons to hire a professional translator are plenty, but the most important reason is to save you from embarrassment! That’s right, a translation gone wrong can produce results that are hilarious and funny, but sometimes really embarrassing and outrageous. A case in point – in 1977, when the then US President visited Poland, an amateur Russian interpreter, who spoke a bit of Polish was hired who made a mess of what Carter wanted to say. There were a couple of hilarious instances when the President was left embarrassed and people had fun at Carter’s expense. In one instance when the President wanted to say “when I left the United States” was translated into Polish which meant “when I abandoned the United States”. It was really embarrassing for the President to “Abandon” his own country. Another sentence that got lost in translation was when the President meant “desire for the future”, it got translated as “lust for the future”! So here we had a President of the most powerful country in the world abandoning his own country and lusting for the future. The media made a mockery of him.
Think if something like this happens to you in an important client meeting or while sending an email crucial for your business. In another instance in 2009, HSBC ended up spending US$10 million just for rebranding. HSBC used a tagline “Assume Nothing” and launched a marketing campaign. In several countries, it got translated as “Do Nothing” in their local languages. By the time HSBC realised this PR disaster, the damage was done forcing the company to spend an additional US$10 million simply to salvage the situation.
Okay, so these were mistakes of only one or two words, but how about when the entire content is misinterpreted as something else completely altering the original meaning? That’s exactly what happened with a light-hearted speculative Chinese article about the foreign exchange market published by the China News Service that was translated into English. The original article was just a speculative piece written by Guan Xiangdong created a market panic resulting in a drop in the US dollar. It was because the English translation sounded as an authentic and serious economic article citing the doomsday for the market.
There are several such weird instances when the heads of state or premier multinational companies were left red-faced and had to strive hard to salvage their reputation. Tools such as Google Translate offers a translation platform that can be used for basic and literal translation, but an over-reliance on them would result in similar devastating outcomes. The only solution is – hire a top rated professional translator!
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