This week has seen numerous mistranslations come to light – and most of them have been hilarious. Here is our breakdown of the week in mistranslation:

The Pope gets lost in translation

Last week saw the election of Cardinal Bergoglio as the new Pope Francis. He is the first Jesuit, the first Latin American and the first non-European to be named Pope replacing Benedict XVI.

Following his election, Pope Francis spoke to the crowds that had gathered in St Peter’s Square, Vatican City. The BBC covered the event and used an interpreter to translate the words of the new pontiff. Unfortunately, the new Pope’s words appeared lost on the linguist.

Viewers took to social networking sites like Twitter to express their disbelief that the interpreter could not correctly translate the Lord’s Prayer. According to the Daily Mail, one person commented: “You’d think the BBC could have found a translator that knew the Lord’s Prayer. Even I know it. Another complained “Love how they’ve got a translator who doesn’t know the Hail Mary in English… #fitting #bbc.”

Pope Francis speaks three languages. However, he will have to rely on interpreters to help him communicate with the rest of his worldwide congregation. Indeed, in a role as important as his it’s vital his words are interpreted correctly.

Buy a tasty “flesh juice”

When communicating with people in a foreign language, it’s common for your words to get lost in translation. Yesterday (March 19th), the Daily Mail compiled a group of photographs depicting some poor examples of translation into English.

All of the snaps were taken at airports in Asia and have captured the mistranslations that are misleading. One café attempts to entice passing passengers to refresh themselves with a delicious glass of “flesh juice”. Meanwhile, another shows chairs that have been thoughtfully reserved for “the old weak and pregnant”. Weak people appear to be at the forefront of the minds of those in charge of translating airport signage in the Far East. One airport features toilets that inform passengers they are “for weak only”.

Other misleading signs include, “delayed due to some reasons”, “steep slope, mind crotch”, “emergency door cock” and “Sweet – Notice: For keeping sanitation, don’t share one can if not the lovers!“.

These examples are sure to raise a laugh, but passengers arriving in a country for the first time might not see the funny side. There could be legal implications, as the signs’ warnings of danger have been lost in translation, so if someone injures themselves as they weren’t able to understand the message, they could take legal action.

We have written before about the confusing signs that have appeared on Welsh roads. On one occasion reported by the BBC, a sign that was meant to advise drivers that heavy goods vehicles should not enter actually read “I am not in the office. Send any work to be translated” in Welsh. Swansea council had sent the message they needed translated to their regular translation provider and had failed to realise that the reply was an out-of-office email.

What can mistranslation teach us?

Mistranslation will always put a smile on our faces. However, it should also teach us that it never pays to cut corners when it comes to translation. Whether you need a sign or a brochure translated, be sure to have it done by a professional linguist whose mother tongue is your target language. This ensures the finished product is not only accurate but correctly localised for your target audience. You should also choose a translation provider who offers proofreading as a standard so any mistakes are corrected.

Contact Language Insight today for a translation service you can trust.