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Bad Translations Can Ruin a Business

Content bad translations can ruin a business

Years ago, Parker Pen, an American company, was expanding into Mexico. It was translating its marketing messages/slogans into Spanish. “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you,” was one of its strongest selling points. It mistakenly thought the verb “embarazar” meant embarrass and used it. Unfortunately, the Spanish translation read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.” (Embarazar meaning to impregnate). Some lazy individual translated clumsily to Spanish and embarrassed the company.

While Parker Pen was not ruined (it quickly fixed its error), this example does show how a poorly translated marketing message can be embarrassing. And if poor translations become habitual, they can hurt a business, sometimes beyond repair.

Here’s why:

  1. They Cause Confusion and Even Some Bad Will

If you have traveled to foreign countries, you may have encountered some hilarious bad English translations. They caused you to laugh, and you really didn’t undergo any significant inconvenience as a result. However, if you are seeking important information or even just want to shop online, a poor translation can cause problems. Your customers will feel the same way if they encounter translations that confuse them. They will move to another business that has taken the time to get those translations right. No one wants the hassle of trying to figure out what something means.

Useful information: How business document translation services can prevent you from making mistakes in translation.


  1. Bad Translations Help Your Competition

As mentioned above, if your competitors are using high quality translators or translation service, and you have sought to save money by using cheap translation services, your website and your other marketing materials will make a statement. That statement is that you do not care enough about foreign-speaking audiences to honor their language, their cultural nuances, and images that they can relate to. They will find the competition’s website, marketing materials, and even their social media platforms more appealing. Don’t let this happen. Get professional translations of everything.

Useful information: Use only the best web localization services to help you win the trust of your customers.


  1. Bad Translations Can Damage Your Reputation

You depend on customers spreading your brand. They do this by sharing your content, by sharing your social media posts, and by responding to your requests for customer feedback. Your intentions may be great, but even the most common errors in translation can be a turn-off. When your foreign audiences observe even these common errors, they wonder how important they are to you. And they are hesitant to share content that includes even these low-level mistakes. They don’t want to be spreaders of low-quality content.

Read also: Seven funny localization fails in advertising.


How to Avoid This Damage

There are many things that a business owner can do to reach a non-native speaking audience, but making sure that the translations are correct and appropriate are probably the most important.

  1. Get a reputable translator or translation service to perform the translations. They have the pros who are native to the target languages, and those pros can make sure that all of your content is translated correctly.
  2. Make certain that the images you are using will not be offensive to a foreign audience. In fact, just ensuring that they will not be offensive may not be enough. Finding images that are “native” to the target culture will be a big plus. If, for example, you are marketing to a Japanese audience, you will buy a lot of good will if they see Japanese people in your content.
  3. Watch your color scheme as you have content and images translated. You may like blue, but in some cultures, light blue is a color for death and mourning. A professional translator will know these things and can save you the embarrassment of giving a wrong impression.

Useful information: Reviews of the best English to Arabic translation services available online.


You are spending a lot of time and energy promoting your products or services to a foreign audience. It only makes sense to spend a bit of money to get your localization and translations right.