There’s sour cream on my taco and I’m missing a piece of chicken

Stomachs growling, we went through the drive up and ordered enough to feed an army.  One member of our group doesn’t like sour cream so we ordered his tacos with none. I saw the special order come up on the ...
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Bad Translation Affects Your Everyday Life If…

We’ve all seen bad English while traveling, in package directions, on labels for goods produced overseas. Sometimes, the cause is translation by non-native speakers who are poorly trained in English. (How hard can it be? Everyone learns English as a ...
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Case Study: Is the New Brand Name Offensive Somewhere?

The client: Inspired ideas that simply sell.  That’s one of the taglines of Yamamoto, a well-known Minneapolis-based ad agency. Their website video says it all: “We are awake, we are around, we are alive, we are here, we are big, ...
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From Crank Phones to Smartphones: Babies and Bathwater

A skilled and well-regarded translator once told me that he created each translation on a typewriter, folded it into an envelope, and mailed it to the client. If we wanted to work with him, that’s the way it would be ...
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Jenny the Giraffe

Don’t let the readers of your translated documents be left in the dark! “Jenny is sad today,” he said as he walked past me in the hall. My brain flipped through all its entries on the word Jenny. No, it’s ...
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Just a Plain Hamburger on a Bun

Did you know that years ago, a hamburger was just a cooked ground beef patty on a plain bun? When it arrived at your table, you could put mustard and ketchup on it if you wanted to. Some people even ...
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“Why isn’t there Japanese in Room 5?”

“This thing is dead. Give me new batteries!” “I only hear German. I asked for an Arabic unit!” I lean against the foyer wall and watch Tembua’s staff handle the flood of conference attendees picking up interpreting equipment. Our company ...
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Eyes or ears: Interpreting vs. translation

"What do you mean the manual and warranties are all in Portuguese?"  Now your supplier wants to set up a phone call. You’re not quite sure what they need, and you’re afraid you’ll sound hopelessly ignorant on the phone. What ...
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5 Head of Cattle versus 5 Heads of Cattle: A Brief Introduction to Vietnamese

The title of this post brings up two images that are similar in language and very different in meaning: five head of cattle, grazing peacefully on the ranch, versus five heads of cattle, severed and bloody. The word head in ...
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Louisville, KY vs. Spoken Chinese

Picture: Kentucky Derby Museum Louisville, KY vs. Spoken Chinese We were coming to the end of the conference. It had been both enjoyable and potentially profitable, as I’d made good contacts for both vendors and potential clients. At the closing ...
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Now I know my ABCs (Pinyin)

Picture: Usborne Internet-Linked Chinese--Mouth to Ear: Now I Know My ABCs When I began my study of Russian, the alphabet was the first lesson. The instructor divided the letters into familiar-looking ones that stand for roughly the same sounds in ...
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“This is (can’t use that word in an email title)!” (At Least in Hong Kong)

The release of the iPhone 7 and 7Plus in China, one of Apple’s top markets, caused a stir in Hong Kong. Social media lit up, and Apple took a hit.Apple’s new product releases are always highly anticipated. They know how ...
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