Speaking two or more languages is a great thing. But it doesn’t mean you have the ability to translate between them accurately – as we’ve seen this month, some words in other languages don’t have an English equivalent, for example.
Mental Floss has some examples from new book Found in Translation to show just how wrong translation can go if not done accurately. My favourite is (of course) about chocolate:
7. Chocolates for him
In the 50s, when chocolate companies began encouraging people to celebrate Valentine’s Day in Japan, a mistranslation from one company gave people the idea that it was customary for women to give chocolate to men on the holiday. And that’s what they do to this day. On February 14, the women of Japan shower their men with chocolate hearts and truffles, and on March 14 the men return the favor. An all around win for the chocolate companies! (Mental Floss)
Have you ever accidentally mistranslated a word or phrase – preferably to hilarious, rather than tragic effect? If you can’t speak a second language, why not try Arabic classes in Washington – it’s better to make mistakes in class than in real life!