Category Archives: Translation Mistakes

US imports

I’m not sure if it can be categorized as a translation mistake because it looks like the name of this shop was decided upon in English.

Nail salons are relatively few and far between in Berlin; they appear to be an import from the US hence the name:  “The Nails of American” or just “The Nails” for short.

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Berliner Mundart

This sign was seen at a new fleamarket known as the Nowkoelln Flowmarkt (which is as Denglish as they come!) in the Neukölln district of Berlin a few weeks ago. A couple of people were selling crepes at the market and this was one of their homemade signs.

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When I asked the woman making the crepes what the sign meant, she shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t know. I can only assume that it is a literal translation of the German phrase “uns läuft das Wasser im Mund zusammen.” A more sensible English translation might be “it makes our mouths water” or just “mouth-watering.”

The crepes were good, by the way, though I don’t know that the water in my mouth ran together any more than my mouth watered.

*The Neukölln fleamarket takes place every third Sunday of the month. The next one is this upcoming Sunday, July 18, on the Maybachufer.

Freitag Fun: Why not just plain “water”?

One of the coffee shop chains in Berlin has put out water for their patrons since all that coffee makes everyone so thirsty. They are also nice enough to put a label on it: “tab water”.

Some people think that the only thing required to complete a translation is a dictionary. In other cases -like this one- people think they can do it all without a dictionary.

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Spot the Translation Mistake

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Can you spot the translation mistake? I took this photo a few days ago on Bernauerstrasse in Berlin. This ice-cream truck is often parked in front of the Bernauerstrasse Documentation Center, where an original piece of the Berlin Wall also stands. You can buy ice-cream here by the ‘Kugel’ or, in the English translation, by the ‘ball.’

Just goes to show that even a one-word translation can be too much of a challenge for the novice translator. Who ever said that the only thing required to complete a translation is a dictionary?

Freitag Fun: two words…good by

Lots of people think they don’t need to hire a translator because they learned English at school.

Lots of people thing they can save money on a professional translator if it is only a short text.

Lots of people think that English is easy.

For those people I only have two words…’good by’.

This sign hangs above the door at a hotel in Hamburg, Germany (spotted November 2008).

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Two words…good by

Lots of people think they don’t need to hire a translator because they learned English at school.

Lots of people thing they can save money on a professional translator if it is only a short text.

Lots of people think that English is easy.

For those people I only have two words…’good by’.

This sign hangs above the door at a hotel in Hamburg, Germany (spotted November 2008).

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God save the queen – Gott speichert die Königin ?

While most people, or at least translators, seem to agree that translation software is no replacement for a professional, human translation, I have often heard the opinion that a program like Google Translate is good for getting a basic understanding of subject matter if only for personal use. But it looks like translation software can muddle even the shortest of phrases and names making comprehensibility impossible. For instance:

God save the queen – Gott speichert die Königin

Buckingham Palace – Kompensationsschinkenpalast

Hamlet – Dörfchen

Downing Street – Niederwerfende Straße

These are just a few of the hilarious examples in Ute Brammertz’s book ‘God save the Queen – God speichert die Königin’. Ute Brammertz is a writer, editor and translator from Munich now living in Oxford. She has compiled a list of German-English translations found on the internet. The list turned into a small book with German language commentary, which I can recommend for any German – English translator’s entertainment.

Freitag Fun: No Flirting with the Bicycles

img_0592Apparently making a pass at bicycles is not authorized, and neither is parking for that matter.

You would think that Berlin at the height of its Berlinale (Berlin’s International Film Festival) frenzy would have known better.

This sign was found in Potsdamer Platz in Berlin during the Berlinale Film Festival (February 2008). I don’t often take pictures of the translation mistakes I find, if only because there are so many of them. But then every once in awhile there is one that catches my eye, one that I don’t want to forget.

German is a brilliant language with a limited supply of root verbs and despite that no lack of expressions for the most specific of actions, thanks to those separable prefixes and not so separable prefixes. It can get confusing though. Of course, abstellen should not be confused with anstellen or feststellen or stellen for that matter. The same goes for schliessen and anschliessen and zuschliesssen and aufschliessen. Machen is one of the most commonly used verbs in all of German in all of its various forms, but in some cases it just doesn’t fit.

Hillary Clinton Gets it Wrong

Another translation fiasco and this one reflects poorly on the entire American government body. You would think that the American government would be able to find at least one qualified, English – Russian, professional translator to handle the one-word translation necessary for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a statement with a bit of humor while visiting the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey V. Lavrov. She was after a laugh and a laugh is what she got, but it probably wasn’t quite what she had in mind.

The gift, a red button on a yellow base, was a play on a statement that Joseph R. Biden made calling on the two countries to “press the reset button” on their relationship. Clinton presented the “reset” button to Lavov with these words: “We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?” The word printed on the button read “reset” in English. The Russian word was printed below, “peregruzka.” Lavrov’s could only answer with the truth, “You got it wrong.” He went on to explain that the word “peregruzka” actually means overcharged, which gives the red button a whole new meaning.

To read the entire New York Time’s article click here.