As a researcher here at Traveler, I get the opportunity to chat with people all over the world—on a given day, it may be a tour operator in Guyana, a spa owner in Chile, or a count in Italy. Once in a while, though, I inevitably hit the language barrier at full force. Although I’m usually saved by multilingual co-workers, English-speaking foreigners, and Google language tools, sometimes I have to smile at what comes out of a challenging exchange. Here are a few of my favorite "lost in translation" findings from the past several months:
This photo of an Asian Elmo, posted by powerlounger2002, caught my eye while I was browsing our Flickr photo pool. He shows us how using "r" and "l" interchangeably, a common mistake for many Asian-language speakers, can result in some very unappealing products. I don't recommend tickling this guy.
From a Slovenian language website (taken in order):
I haven't done anything wrong.
Ničesar nisem zagrešil.
It was a misunderstanding.
Gre za nesporazum.
Where are you taking me?
Kam me peljete?
Am I under arrest?
I am an American/Australian/British/Canadian citizen.
Sem ameriški/avstralski/britanski/kanadski državljan.
I want to talk to the American/Australian/British/Canadian consulate.
Želim poklicati ameriški/avstralski/britanski/kanadski konzulat.
I want to talk to a lawyer.
Hočem govoriti s svojim odvetnikom.
Can I just pay a fine now?
Ali lahko zdaj plačam globo?
Not to pick on Slovenia (in general, their English is much better than my nonexistent Slovenian), but I also like these entries from a glossary of useful words to know, which I found in a guidebook (also taken in order):
okrepcevlnica - snack bar
Osvobodilne Fronte - Anti-Fascist Liberation Front
otok - island
restavracija - restaurant
rini - push
rob - escarpment, edge
vozni red - timetable
vozovnica - ticket
vrt - garden, park
vrtaca - sinkhole
Finally, my favorite silly language resource, introduced to me by fellow researcher Ashley Thompson, comes from Japan. Begun as a '90s late-night television show, "Zuiikin English" aims to teach English phrases to Japanese viewers, based on the theory that students remember phrases better by associating each with a specific muscle movement. Unfortunately, the choice of both movements and phrases seems to have been rather misguided. The result is an aerobics video-Rosetta Stone crossover in which Japanese girls in skimpy outfits jump up and down while repeating such lines as “I was robbed by two men” and "I have a bad case of diarrhea." Clips of the show even scored two spots on Anderson Cooper’s “What Were They Thinking?” segment.
Share with us: What are your translation stories? Have you ever encountered a situation where not knowing a region's language put you on the spot?