How a poor translation can mean bad business for restaurant owners

Look up “translation fails” on the internet, and you’ll immediately see why this is always good for a laugh. There are so many hilarious, unintentional bloopers out there that it’s a bit difficult to digest them all, and you certainly wouldn’t want to eat in a restaurant that serves these mistakes!

The Chinese really win the prize in this area, with so many crazy mistakes that it’s amazing anyone ever orders a meal at all. Although Stir-fried Wikipedia is still my favourite, I think that a serving of James Bong or stir-fried Grandma should also rank in the top ten. Talking of family members, how would you like some deep-roasted husband? (Maybe that’s the best way to serve them!). When it comes to chicken dishes, no matter how good they might taste, I would have to wonder about the restaurant that offered “chicken”… and further down the menu, at twice the price, “real chicken”. Or what about “human chicken”? Or “My family”? I think I’d run a mile from that one!

If you prefer the vegetarian option in poor translations, there’s always “stuffed rape leaves”, “crud rice”, “noddles” or just “whatever”, which really sounds like they just got tired and gave up. The current favourite from the Chinese, however, is the item on a restaurant menu which just said “Error – cannot translate”. If you’re going to let Google translate for you, at least pay attention!

The Spanish are no slouches either when it comes to unprofessional restaurant translations. A frequently seen mistake is “tape of pork” which sounds more like the poor animal had tapeworms, and was obviously directly translated from “cinta de lomo” (pork loin). Maybe it would go well with the cheeps that are all over the place? Or, staying with pork, try “pork loin in your juice” which hopefully is tastier than it sounds!

Continuing with meat dishes, I have often seen tourists scratching their heads over “combined plates” or “mixed plates”. Who cares what type of crockery it’s served on if it tastes good, right? Wrong! If the visitor to your restaurant is confused by the poor translation, chances are they won’t stick around to try out your delph, or your food.

Should you be lucky enough to get a customer to come in and try your “black and white” (huh?), “York ham”, “cool potatoes”, “brave potatoes” or worst of all “kids fingers” (Oh my God…), chances are they will never figure out what your “table of Iberians” means (cannibalism rearing its ugly head again), or “peppers stuffed with beautiful” (bonito, or tuna). Maybe they’ll go for something that’s already in English, sort of: A “Viquini sambuich” is one gem I saw years ago, or how about some good old spesialty samdwichis, including, for some strange reason, a bee samdwich. There’s already a shortage of bees without making them into sandwiches, for Heaven’s sake! If you’re not careful, those customers will soon be escaping out the window of the “services” (servicios, or toilets).

Don’t let a poor translation ruin your business

When it comes to attracting business, there is no substitute for the professional translator, unless you actually want your restaurant to end up ridiculed forever on the internet, and losing customers who really don’t understand what is meant by “do you lick shellfish?”. On the other hand, a good, polished translation can fill your tables with happy customers, who are “eating their fingers off…” ahem, I mean, enjoying the “finger-lickin’ food”!

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