If you’re running a business in a tourist-heavy country, having signage in English is a smart move. However, your smarts go out the window if the English translations you display turn into the wrong kind of funny jokes. We understand that not everyone knows the language well enough not to get lost in translation, but please—don't trust Google Translate to give you anything but a literal conversion of whatever you type in, turning your sign into a hilariously bad translation.

Machine Translation Fails

Each language is an intricate system. Knowing the literal meaning of each word will only get you so far and is definitely not enough to make a good translation. Unfortunately, this is exactly where machine translators fail spectacularly and produce awfully bad translated signs. They are still learning how to deal with a language as a living organism, not just a bunch of nouns and verbs. 

Well, to be fair on translation tools, it’s possible that some of these errors were just honest typos. Either way, scroll down to see the funniest bad translations people have come across during their travels and vote for the most epic fails. Also, is anyone up for a nice ‘decomposed Moscow mule’ later?  

#2

Menu that says "Ice cream in the a*s"

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John L
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Now that I think of it, this may be a great way to shrink swollen hemorrhoids. 😜

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What is the Greatest Problem of Translation?

While many things go into making a good translation, some things are often the main culprits of funny translation fails. One of them is words that sound similar in two languages but mean different things. They are called the translator’s false friends.

Another thing responsible for many hilariously bad translated signs is taking things too literally instead of translating the meaning. And the shorter the text, the more difficult it is to translate it because you don’t have enough context to help you.

Funny Translation Fails by Humans

Often, bad translation is entirely on the person who made it because they either didn’t have enough knowledge or didn’t bother to double-check if the result actually made sense. 

However, beyond dealing with false friends and ambiguous words, translating also involves understanding cultural nuances, references, and context. What makes sense in one culture might not in another, making accurate translation complex. Hence, linguistic challenges are just the tip of the iceberg.

Either way, ridiculously bad translated signs are funny to read, so keep scrolling for more translation fails in advertising. Vote for the ones that make you laugh the most, and share them with your friends!

#11

"Nazi dental laboratory" wrong translation from the arabic

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John L
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Perhaps we can expect to see Dustin Hoffman, and Laurence Olivier, working there?

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#17

Wrong translated sign about cream milk with coconut humans

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#19

Wrong translated menu

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Scott Johnson
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

"Hey, son, I know you're mad at me for grounding you and all, but you're learning English in school, right? Would you translate this menu for my restaurant before it's printed? You will? Thanks, mate, I appreciate it."

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#26

Wrong translated arabic sign

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John L
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Yep, about hot/spicy foods, they say you get to enjoy it twice. Once going in, and once coming out. That post above about "Ice Cream In The A*s" makes perfect sense now. :D

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#29

Wrong translated arabic menu

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Andrew Gibb
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

they are in the variety of dishes category- variety is the spice of life...

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What is a Common Translation Mistake?

Apart from taking things too literally during translation, another common mistake is using the very first option the dictionary offers you for the word you’re looking for. Sometimes, it may really be the meaning you need, but there’s a good chance that the one that actually suits your context is a little down the entry. Keep that in mind when translating to avoid more translation fails and improve accuracy.

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#43

Wrong translated menu

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#47

Wrong translated TVMs sign

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#54

Wrong translated arabic sign

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#55

Wrong translated toilet sign

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Tayyib “T410” Cankat
Community Member
6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Actually it is translated quite well. I think they mean "Press the flush button again to stop water"

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#68

Wrong translated hotel sign

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Tomatoe
Community Member
6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Both German and English translations are so hilarious that I had to go and actually google this one, to see what it was supposed to say :) It sure takes the art of miss-translation to the next level - Crema de verdura would be vegetable soup - any native Spanish speaker here is welcome to correct :)

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#70

Wrong translated sign about the roof

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Verner Carlberg
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Even though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death, on the path under the roof of dangerous, I will fear no evil, all though I might cringe a little.... Psalm 23:4, King George III edition

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#72

Wrong translated menu

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mimmini
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

kurki=chanterelles, really tasty, but I don't think I will eat them any time soon after reading this...

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#73

Wrong translated backpack instruction

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#77

Wrong translated entrance sign

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Tomatoe
Community Member
6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Sorry for being a killjoy - but this must be a fake. No way this would survive an hour in Germany, let along long enough to get rusty.

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#83

Wrong translated menu

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Joel Sánchez (kazer)
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

In some Spanish variants "chica" and "chico" mean "small", but they can also mean "girl" and "boy", respectively. Hence the confusion.

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#87

Wrong translated arabic sign

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Verner Carlberg
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6 years ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

when you want to make a "that's what I said last night" joke, but know you'll be banned from panda if you do.