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Nightmare translations – a halloween special

By Rowena Smyth, 

Yes, it’s that time of year again when we all pay a little more attention to things that go bump in the night and strap ourselves in to weather some serious trick or treating. At Brightlines, we have enjoyed a spooky cackle at horrific translations and have uncovered some devilish doozies. So, while you prepare to head out into the dark, dark night, take a look at these nightmare translations. 

Ebril International Hotel

The Erbil International Hotel in northern Iraq featured a heart-stopping buffet sign reading ‘meatballs’ in Arabic alongside its English translation reading ‘Paul is dead’. 

It seems that the hotel staff didn’t know that “Meat Ball” is not an Arabic word!

Syrian cheese

Perhaps you should console yourself with some Syrian paralysis cheese?

An unfortunate cheesemonger used a direct translation of the Syrian Arabic slang word شِلَل (shilal) that is a term for “braids.” The translation should have read in fact, read “Syrian braided cheese’ not ‘Syrian paralysis cheese’, in case you didn’t spot that already… 

Llamas or flamingos?

The following sign very clearly states that the flamingos must not be fed, which would be fine if it weren’t accompanied by the image of a Llama.

This was found by a member of the public at a llama petting area in Ecuador. Whoever translated llamingos – which is the correct Spanish word for llamas – needs to spend some time in a zoo! 

Avoid the nightmare translation

To avoid any incorrect translations – whether that be through the fault of unchecked machine translation or general human error – opt for a service that provides a holistic, transcreative approach to translation. With more than 1,000 expert translators, the team here at Brightlines can certainly keep the horrific translations from your door.

We offer translation services that help you communicate your messages accurately and authentically. The main problem with the funny translations above is that changing individual words from one language to another does not work at any level. And of course it will certainly not work for abstract or idiomatic content. 

At Brightlines, we work with the full meaning, including all subtleties and nuances. Our specialist teams are all mother tongue writers with an indepth and creative understanding of their language. This means we can understand not only the intention of the lexical combinations but also the literal grassroot meanings of individual items. We use transcreation techniques, applying our expert knowledge of language to make sure that the intended message comes across clearly and authentically. 

Let us save you from the nightmare translators! We’d be delighted to hear from you. You can call 01225 580 770 or get in touch here.

Happy Halloween to you all!


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