Everywhere we go, we can see literature translated - be that in book form or digital; advertising or promotion; packaging or labelling that is devised for business, pleasure or leisure. Translation encompasses every corner of the globe and getting it right will mean the difference between success or failure; understood or misunderstood; learnt or mislearnt. Individuals in businesses, governments and educational institutions spend thousands of hours trying to get it right and spend thousands of dollars to ensure no stuff ups are present. However, well laid plans do go astray - often in the biggest and most public of ways.
I was introduced to a wonderful article, shown to me by a scholarly friend of many years. He did not divulge his disbelief upon reading the article; I guess, being a professional linguist, one sees all sorts of things. However, being a speaker of languages myself, my initial response was quite different. I could do nothing, but laugh. It brought back memories of my first few interactions with learning a new language.
However, I truly understand the problems and reasons why these sorts of mistakes happen. Yet, I am baffled as to how they continue to occur, given legitimate businesses, governments and education institutions require precision in the transfer of knowledge and information presented to the masses.
In Korean, 'bi' or '비' - pronounced as 'pee', means rain. So if I said, "bi-ga omnida' or 비가 옵니다", it would mean - It's raining. In a blend between English and Korean - more widely known as 'Konglish', I remember playing with the language, saying "So the heavens are 'pee-ing' on us?" Of course this is not a translation. For me, it was just a way to remember, what the Korean word meant. However, my Korean students heard me say this and forever more, I was known as the funny teacher who thought God rained on people. It was funny at the time and still brings laughter to my soul. When, I see translations gone wrong, I understand the fun and associated temporary embarrassment that language discrepancies can bring.