TRANSLATION ERRORS

 

MEDICAL / PHARMACEUTICAL ERRORS

 
SOME LANGUAGES REQUIRE NUMBER TRANSLATIONS
SOME LANGUAGES REQUIRE NUMBER TRANSLATIONS

In France, 450 cancer patients received excessive radiation exposure with 7 patients dying. The instructions had been translated into French incorrectly and the doses of radiation were miscalculated.

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GOOGLE TRANSLATE SAYS IT IS NOT FOR MEDICAL TRANSLATIONS
GOOGLE TRANSLATE SAYS IT IS NOT FOR MEDICAL TRANSLATIONS

The Virginia Department of Health’s website uses Google Translate to provide Covid information to non-English speakers. Spanish-readers were told that the COVID-19 vaccine was 'not necessary' instead of 'The vaccine is not legally mandated but we recommend that you get it once it is available'.

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EVIDENCE OF POOR PLANNING AND PRIORITIES
EVIDENCE OF POOR PLANNING AND PRIORITIES

Victoria, Australia to spend $14 million on more multicultural coronavirus support after translation bungles. Translations of COVID-related information at both the federal and state levels revealed a mix of inconsistent and incomplete messaging. In this poster about face masks Farsi and Arabic were combined.

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MARKETING ERRORS

 
NOT EVEN CLOSE
NOT EVEN CLOSE

'To-go' suggests portable. Instead this expression has been translated to the African country - Togo. The real meaning is lost in French as it appears to be a 'Bib from Togo'.

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CULTURAL CONTEXT NOT RESEARCHED
CULTURAL CONTEXT NOT RESEARCHED

Coca-Cola’s attempt to combine English and New Zealand’s indigenous language backfired. The English use of mate is common in New Zealand and Kia Ora is a common Maori greeting for Hello. The combination however translates into the native language as 'Hello, Death'.

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CAR INSTRUCTIONS REFLECT ON IMAGE
CAR INSTRUCTIONS REFLECT ON IMAGE

When a company does not invest in quality translations their image suffers. An accident in Beijing has highlighted a mistranslation. The ‘autopilot driver-assist function’ helps drivers change lanes, maintain speed and find parking spaces. In Chinese, the same feature, says the car can drive itself.

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FOOD LABEL ERRORS

 
THE COUNTRY TURKEY
THE COUNTRY TURKEY

Errors can be misleading or omit information. 'Turkey Jerky' has been translated into French but instead of using the word for turkey in French - 'dinde' they have translated turkey into 'Turquie' the country.

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REPUGNANT WINE LABEL
REPUGNANT WINE LABEL

Describing a wine with subtle nuances of flavour is beyond the scope of a machine translation. ‘elusive earthiness’ has been translated to ‘elusive repugnant baseness’. This error could have been picked up simply by translating the French back into English.

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COMPUTER CHIPS OR FLEAS?
COMPUTER CHIPS OR FLEAS?

There are two possible translations for the French word ‘puce’. So, you have your choice of ‘honey flavoured fleas’ or ‘honey flavoured computer chips’. The error could have been picked up by doing a reverse translation of the description.

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DOCUMENT ERRORS

 
BREXIT WHITE PAPER MARRED BY MULTIPLE TRANSLATION ERRORS
BREXIT WHITE PAPER MARRED BY MULTIPLE TRANSLATION ERRORS

The British Government managed to mess up a white paper on Brexit in most of the 22 languages it was translated into. Native speakers from other EU countries labeled the translated document as ‘horrible’. ‘The tone is really off, wrong words used.

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FREE TRADE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE EU AND SOUTH KOREA
FREE TRADE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE EU AND SOUTH KOREA

South Korea was set to sign a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, but translation errors delayed it by months. The Korea version contained over 100 major translation errors making it difficult to have the bill approved and added costly delays.

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BRITISH BOY STRANDED IN AFGHANISTAN
BRITISH BOY STRANDED IN AFGHANISTAN

A 5-year-old British boy was stranded in Afghanistan due to a mistranslation of his mother’s date of birth. It took more than a year before it was accepted as a translation error and he was able to return to his British father in the UK.

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TRANSLATION MISTAKES, HOW AND WHY THEY OCCUR
Here is a list of some common errors made by automated translations and by inexperienced translators. Although specific to French/English many of these errors apply to other languages as well.

Faux amis (False friends)
Refers to words spelled similarly, in two languages but with different meanings. For example, “actuel” in French could easily but mistakenly be translated to “actual,” in English. In French however “actuel” means “current”. 


Contresens (Opposite meaning)
Similar to faux amis but a more serious error, a contresens translation occurs when a word or sentence is mistranslated and expresses the opposite meaning. For example, ‘to support someone’ in English implies taking care of someone. In French ‘support’ means to ‘put up with someone’. ‘Je support ta famille could be mistranslated as ‘I support your family’ when it actually means ‘I put up with your family'.


Faux Sens (Wrong meaning for the context)
Some words have multiple meanings and so a translator needs to understand the context before deciding which meaning fits. For example the French word “important” can be translated as either “important” or “large” depending on the context. A “une population importante” could be translated from French into English as “an important population,” or a ‘large population’. This is an error that can easily occur with machine translation. Fatale in French can mean ‘fatal’ but it can also mean ‘inevitable’. The meaning and intent of the text is critical when you have multiple meanings for the same word.  


Nonsens (No sense)
These errors typically occur when machine translators or inexperienced translators try to translate expressions literally. For example, the French expression ‘J’ai le cafard’ means ‘I’m feeling a little down’ in English. The literal translation into English however is ‘I have the cockroach’.

Syntax errors

Word order and verb tenses are just a few of the differences between French and English. These mistakes typically occur when the grammar of one language is applied to the other language.

Style confusion

More obscure than the others, translation loss can occur when some aspect of style (voice, tone, register) is missed in the translation. It is not necessarily inaccurate, but it does not convey all the information of the original text. For example, the medical event ‘stroke’ can be translated to ‘AVC’ or ‘accident vasculaire cerebral’. Choosing one or the other should reflect the register of the original. It would not be a mistranslation, as the meaning is conveyed, using a more formal, or informal equivalent word may not retain the same character as the original and may not sound cohesive with the rest of the text.

Omission errors

Errors occur when words or phrases have not been translated, for whatever reason. A translator may not understand, or agree with part of the text and may omit it. This is a serious error as information is missing.

Abbreviation errors

A particular problem arises when the translator has to deal with abbreviations, which is often the case in medical translations. In many cases, there are several possible abbreviations for the same term, and even sometimes the same abbreviation for multiple terms.

Units of measurement errors:

Numbers and decimals are expressed differently in French and English, e.g. 1,7 vs 1.7. This can also vary by country. Conventional units of measurement can vary as well. Blood pressure can be measured in mm, cm, Pa.. and can be expressed as 2 numbers or as a single number.