Branding Cockups

Branding Cockups

We all love a good laugh and branding cockups don’t ever fail to deliver.  I bet the new brand decision makers for these well-known brand names most certainly weren’t too happy – but it’s great entertainment for us.   Who in their right mind would name their company ‘F***ing Hell’ – I kid you not. Read on to find out about that and many other hilarious branding cock-ups.

Baniff translated a slogan claiming finely upholstered seats “Fly in Leather”. When this was translated into Spanish it comes out as “Fly Naked.”Clairol

Clairol marketed a curling iron as “Mist Stick”. Unfortunately “mist” in German is a slang word for manure.

When Colgate launched a product in France it decided upon the name brand name “Cue”. Unfortunately if they had done their market research they would have realised that “Cue” is also the name of a French pornographic magazine. This must have caused confusion for customers shopping in the supermarket when asking for Cue to brush their teeth with.

The well known American beer brand Coors suffered an unfortunate mishap when it launched it’s product in Spain. Their marketing team chose the slogan “turn it loose” which in Spain is a colloquial term for diarrhoea.

World famous vacuum cleaner manufacturer Electrolux chose the slogan “Nothing suck like an Electrolux” when they launched their product in America. Of course sucks is a reference in American slang that means bad or poor. Of course this is also considered and urban legend of translation but would still be funny if it were true!

Ford launched a car in Brazil called the Ford Pinto. Unfortunately in Brazillian Portuguese Pinto also means “tiny male genitals”

American meat processing and poultry farming company Perdue Farms used the slogan “it takes a tough man to make tender chicken” to try and appeal to some of the masculine male customers in Spain. However when this slogan is translated into Spanish it comes through as “It takes a sexually stimulated man to make a chicken affectionate”.

Everyone knows Ikea right? Ikea is a world recognised furniture store that began in Sweden. However when they launched in Thailand they didn’t realise that some of their Swedish names mean “sex” or “third base” in Thai. Also in China Ikea’s Chinese website advertised a stuffed wolf toy called Lufsig, or Lo Mo Sai (路姆西). This unfortunately contained a homophobe of Hai (閪), a profane Cantonese word meaning “vagina”. The name itself could be written as Lo Mo Hai (老母閪) which means “mothers Vagina”.

Fast food restaurant chain KFC made some Chinese customers feel uncomfortable or just confused with their slogan “finger licking good”. When the restaurant chain launched in China their slogan translated to “eat your fingers off”.

Mercedes Benz launched in China under the brand name “Bensi”. Which in China means “rush to die”.

Sportswear manufacturer Nike was forced to recall thousands of it’s products when the design on some of it’s products was deemed too similar to the Arabic word for Allah.

Electrical giant Panasonic launched a new web ready PC using a Woody Woodpecker theme. Not too bad in itself except the slogan they used was “Touch Woody : The Internet Ready Pecker”.

The makers of premium pens Parker Pens launched in Mexico using it’s slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Unfortunately this was mistranslated as “It won’t leak in your product and make you pregnant.

Iranian consumer goods company Paxam marketed it laundry soap using the Farsi word for “snow”. This resulted in packaging been labelled as “Barf Soap”.

American branded Puffs Facial Tissues, from Procter and Gamble, entered into the German market. Unfortunately they didn’t realise that “Puff” is a German slang word for brothel.

The American Dairy Association used it’s slogan “Got Milk?” as it’s slogan in Spanish speaking markets. This was translated as “Are you lactating?”. Bit of a personal question don’t you think?

Procter and Gamble brand Vicks moved into the German market with it’s cough drops. In German the pronunciation of “V” is actually “F” which made “Vick” slang for sexual intercourse in Germany.

When the name of the Toyota MR2 is pronounced in French it is phonetically similar to “mede” in French, which is their word for “shit”.

Motoring manufacturer Mitsubishi found that their Pajero product name as the same as the Spanish word for “wanker” when they launched in Spain.

Japanese motor company Honda initially launched their Honda Jazz as the Honda Fitta. However when their marketing team contacted their Swedish office with the name they found out that Fitta is a slang word for “vagina” in Swedish and Norwegian. They promptly decided on the Jazz although Japan kept the “Fit” brand for it’s home market.

I know what your thinking. How rude. How profane. However Fucking Hell is the name of a German Pilsner beer brewed in Germany. When they launched the brand in 2010 they upset the European Union due to the nature of the word and it’s expletive nature in the English language. However the brand name refers to an actual town in Austria which is in fact called Fucking whereas as Hell in Germany refers to pale lager. They launched an appeal against the original EU decision to disallow this name and they won.

Below is a short list of some actual products that are available on sale in various countries. Are they marketing mistakes or are they genius in advertising? Decide for yourselves!

  • Crapsy Fruit, a French breakfast cereal
  • Alu-Fanny, a French aluminium foil

  • Pschitt, a French fizzy soft drink

  • Atum Bom, a Portuguese brand of tinned tuna

  • Kack, Danish confectionery

  • Plopp, a Swedish chocolate bar

  • Mukk, an Italian yogurt

  • Bimbo, a brand of bread in Spain and the Americas

  • Slag, a Belgian lager

  • Kum Onit, a German make of pencil sharpeners

Food for thought


How much do you think the ‘cock-ups’ cost each company?  Get in touch with us for professional translations, that are localised and right on the mark – every time! 

How Lingua Translations can help with your sporting needs

How Lingua Translations can help with your sporting needs

How Lingua Translations can help with your sporting needs

Here at Lingua Translations, one of the many services we offer is language services in the field of sports (“field” – get it?!). We have provided a range of services – mainly to sports teams and agencies – and perhaps we could help you next!

Whether it’s translating articles to broaden to global appeal of major football clubs, to interpreting for new players, or even teaching them English, we are here to help you reach your goals (I’ll stop with the puns soon) with any sporting matter, no matter how big or small.

Sports translation? We got this!

Professional-sport-translation-300x300We translate and proofread match reports and articles for one of the biggest clubs in world football right now, while also translating promo’s involving a major betting agency and various teams including not only a Premier League winning club, but also a 5-times European cup winning team too! Besides translating articles, reports and promos, we’ve also been asked to translate medical documents needed for a player’s transfer. This is of course top-secret stuff as any leak could jeopardise the transfer, or alert other teams who might try and snap the player up instead! With Lingua Translations, you are safe in the knowledge that your documents remain 100% confidential.

We also have experience with interpreting for major football clubs as well, including helping them interpret during football camps for kids (run by another Premier League and Champions League winning club), as well as helping players during their medical before a transfer. Once the players had signed, we also offered them English language lessons in our office to help them settle. For players coming to a new country and culture, this can be a great help!

While a lot of our recent sports work has revolved around football (or “soccer”, for our American clients!), our linguists also have experience and knowledge in a variety of sports and related subjects for example things like cycling and athletics, but also things such as physiotherapy for sports injuries.

Whatever your sporting-related language requirements – whether you are an internationally supported sports team, or an individual amateur athlete – why not get in touch? You can visit our website at, or you can send us an email at

Is it time for the machines to take over?

Is it time for the machines to take over?

For quite some time, companies such as Google, Amazon and Apple have been diving into the world of translation, with their machine translation tools. The most famous (or infamous, depending on what you think) of these is Google Translate.

Google Translate no-machine-translation 318 × 292

In ten years of Google Translate, the programme has gone from supporting two languages to 103. More than 500 million of us use Google Translate which translates more than 100 billion words a day. The main languages translated are English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Indonesian. Brazilians are known to use Google Translate more than any other country.

Who uses Google Translate?

Based on Google Translates figures, half a billion- that is an insane amount of people! Google Translate has become our online bilingual dictionary- finding words, phrases or even an entire page of text.

Can you trust Google Translate?

Yes and no. You cannot deny its ability to translate.

But a machine can not physically understand the meaning of a sentence. It can translate it word for word- but would the translation flow with the same effect as it would in its source language?

The simple answer is NO. Word for word translation is like Joey writing Monica and Chandler’s adoption letter in Friends:

“Monica: Alright, what was this sentence originally? (shows the sentence to Joey)

Joey: Oh, ‘They are warm, nice, people with big hearts’.

Chandler: And that became ‘they are humid prepossessing Homo Sapiens with full sized aortic pumps…?

Joey: Yeah, yeah and hey, I really mean it, dude.”

What do you think? Sound the same?

But Google hasn’t stopped there!

They now have a Neutral Machine Translation (GNMT). The programme is trained with translations in the hope that it’ll eventually bring out perfect translations, or as close to a human translation as possible. Google translate works on a piece by piece method as I said earlier. So, it will see a whole sentence and translate word for word, rather than looking for the meanings behind the sentence (as a human would) and translate to the best of their ability what the source text means. This new version works on huge volumes of human-translated text- it learns from what it has been taught.

Impressed? But would you want this programme to translate important documents? Sensitive, legal documents? I think not…

So, what about Google’s competition?

‘iTranslate – Your Passport to the World’

iTranslate is an app that works just like Google Translate. The online website states that ‘With iTranslate you can translate text or websites, start voice conversations, lookup words, meanings and even verb conjugations in over 90 languages’. Who wouldn’t want that on their phone?! It would be an ideal travel companion. Able to recognise your voice, translate offline to save on roaming charges. iTranslate also gives you access to previous translations.

Well, on the whole, this sounds great. Does exactly want someone would want – quick and easy translations direct to your phone. You don’t even need an iPhone – Works with various Android and Windows phones as well.

But, do you trust it? This would be ideal if you wanted to go on holiday and didn’t know certain terms or words. Would you really allow this programme to translate your website? Maybe not….

Maybe trust a trained translator writing in their own native language with experience and qualifications to translate some of the most important documents you could have!

Swearing is part of all languages; should it be made illegal?

Swearing is part of all languages; should it be made illegal?

Languages - Lingua TranslationsOne of the first things most people ask me when I say I can speak German and Italian is, “So you can swear in those languages?!”

Of course when I was at school knowing swear words in another language was ‘cool’. It was one of those things that provided hours of entertainment within friends. However, my time spent in the countries was when I really saw this type of language in use.

As in English, swear words are common place in many languages. It is normal to hear words that may be considered mild swear words banded around between Italian friends, particularly when referring to other drivers on the road!

Swearing is referred to with many different names but the word profanity is perhaps the one that best encapsulates these various titles. The word profanity originates from the Latin term pro fano (literally meaning ‘outside the sanctuary’) and was used to refer to things that did not belong to the church.

This connection can clearly be seen as profanities are still unacceptable within religion, but it is also clear that for many people cursing has lost its shock factor. Nowadays it is not unusual to hear young children exclaiming words that would have earned them a swift clip round the earhole not too long ago.

That is not to say that everyone is au fait with bad language, certainly for the majority of people it may still be considered a sign of poor upbringing when a child of 11 calls his friend a series of words that would make a sailor blush.

There is, in fact, an ongoing debate as to whether swearing in public should be made illegal. Even following the ruling by a High Court judge last year that it should not be a punishable offence, the debate continues. In fact, in 2008 police in Preston, north-west England were empowered to fine people caught swearing in public the sum of £80. Throughout history there have been many examples of bills and laws banning swearing and making it a punishable offence, however swearing still remains a central part of everyday life. It is in the media constantly, of course there is still a watershed but it seems that after this hour anything goes.

Writers use swear words to add impact to a character’s lines. To express anger, fear, hatred. Sometimes they are just added in for the sake of it though.

Does this mean that swear words have lost their impact? Some words are used without a second thought, whilst others might cause you to recoil but this is again down to the individual.

Swearing could be made illegal on the basis that using these words is offensive, but offensive to whom? If the majority of people no longer find bad language to be bad then what is the point in banning it?

Some say that swearing dilutes the meaning of languages and affects the range of vocabulary used. I would be inclined to agree.

With swear words at the ready, who needs to be creative with languages? One word to suit many situations means that we no longer feel the need to search for ways of expressing emotion.

What are your thoughts on swear words within different languages? Should swearing be made illegal? Let us know you thoughts via the comment box below.

For more information on the languages we work with here at Lingua Translations, please visit our languages page.

FAQ – Translation in the Travel and Tourism Industry

FAQ – Translation in the Travel and Tourism Industry

1) Why is translation important in the travel and tourism industry?

Tourism is the main source of income for many countries, such as Egypt, Greece, Spain, Malaysia and Thailand, and many island nations, such as The Bahamas, Fiji, Maldives, Philippines. Tourism and travel activities have become a vital driving force in creating economic growth and employment.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourist arrivals have grown by 4.3% in the first eight months of 2015. International tourists (overnight visitors) travelling the world between January and August 2015 reached 810 million. 33 million more than in the same period of 2014!

These figures show that the tourism industry still is one of the largest and most dynamic industries in today’s global economy.

Customers are more diverse than ever and expect information to be presented to them in a way that they understand. Therefore, tourism translation is becoming a key factor to unlocking potential customers.

When looking at tourism as a confluence of cultures and languages, the business translation services industry becomes an obvious and important tool, as well as a directly connected sector. The translator, therefore, as a mediator between languages and cultures, plays a key role in the achievement of effective communication and understanding with tourists.

The translation of tourist texts, such as:

  • Tourist guides
  • Brochures
  • Restaurant menus
  • Tourist accommodation catalogues,
  • Advertisements
  • Promotional posters

Means that tourists can communicate in, learn about, and get closer to the country they visit.

UK tourism:

In the UK, there is a huge and increasing demand to reach out to foreign tourists. With recognitions in the UK like ‘The City of Culture’, British cities, such as Bristol, Birmingham and Swansea are crying out to communicate with foreign tourists and reap the benefits of tourism. Having spent millions on redeveloping parts of their cities, benefiting from tourism through showcasing your city to the world is vital . Having access to interpreters 24/7 can help attract custom worldwide, at no extra cost for the company.

At Lingua Translations, we provide professional tourism translation and interpreting, guaranteed by our qualified and experienced linguists, who are specialists in this field.


2) Why is localisation important in this industry?

Translation is not only about translating content from one language to another. It is even truer when it comes to tourism translation. Marketing plays a great part in it, as well as localisation.

Localisation is basically the art of adapting content to a specific culture. To appeal to the customer in this industry, a document or website has to communicate ideas of hospitality, respect and friendliness in a way that will “speak” to the customers.

Website localisation has become even more important in this industry! With the growth of online booking solutions, budget airlines and low-cost services, localisation is key. An informative and well localised website is a crucial factor to the booking process.

In fact, 42% of internet users say they never purchase products or services from websites that are not in their language! These surveys clearly demonstrate that customers generally prefer to learn about a product when it is adapted to their cultural environment and in their own language.

As a company where all employees are linguist experts, we fully understand the importance of localisation and the impact it can have on your business. We know how important a sector this is for businesses expanding abroad and the differences it can have on all aspects of your company. Not just commercial but also how your company is perceived by clients abroad and how you are seen as a global player internationally.


3) What are the translation challenges in this industry?

The main challenge in tourism translation is to be culturally accurate when providing information. While adding a bit of promotional content to entice the tourists. Translators must be aware of any political, cultural, historical and idiomatic issues and aspects, as well as various local names. They also have to be aware of industry-specific terminology, have perfect writing skills, and have a deep knowledge of the travel business and marketing.

Tourism translators must be able to see through customers’ eyes. Whether they are travelling for business or leisure, or whether they are searching for a family trip or a romantic escape. It is important to use the appropriate adjectives(large, big, huge…) and the correct emotions.

What is the first thing target customers are looking for when booking their trip? To give you a simple example, a sunny and warm destination may not be advertised the same way for a British audience as it would be for a Spanish audience.

The quality of tourism translations directly affects the image of a country abroad, and the ‘brand’ of the country. This is very important for tourism marketing and advertising campaigns. Translations must be attractive and well expressed, since any error in translation can lead to disinterested potential tourists. With this in mind, all tourist texts should be professionally translated to attract future tourists, and contribute to the growth of this important sector. However, there is undoubtedly more work to be done.


4) Where is tourism translation used?

You would be surprised by how numerous translation opportunities are in the tourism industry. Here is a non-exhaustive list of documents (or TPMs -tourism promotional materials) that you could get translated. From art and culture, history and geography, to advertising and marketing, sport and leisure, food and wine … The list goes on!

– Brochures and flyers for national and regional tourist boards, tourist offices, national parks, museums, tour operators, hotels and restaurants…

– Guidebooks and visitor guides

– Travel, tourism and leisure websites

– Museum and exhibition guides

– Newspaper/magazine articles

– Advertising and marketing materials

– Newsletters

– Contracts and correspondence

– Online databases

– Press releases

– Customer satisfaction surveys

– Welcome packs

– Official documents for tourism bodies

– Service descriptions

– Tour and Holiday guides

– Audio and Visual material

– Complete catalogue, advertising campaign, social media or information material


5) What about interpreting in the tourism industry?

Tourism is essentially travel for leisure, recreation or business purposes and language barriers are extremely common. Interpreters are often needed for emergency situations, business expansion purposes or simply just as an option for customers.

Interpreting is a popular requirement for hoteliers, tourist boards and tour operators. Feedback we received in our agency is that it gives them the confidence to be able to deal with all their customers and adds to a hotel’s many functions.

Many of the areas of the tourist industry require interpreters intermittently and in urgent situations. For this we suggest telephone interpreting as an option. Tourists visit their destinations from all over the world and having an interpreter at the press of a button is such a useful option to have and will save a lot of time, worry and cost for everyone.

Lingua Translations offers a telephone interpreting service which is simple to set up and with no minimum usage time or set up costs. Perfect for those tricky moments where language barriers can be overcome within a matter of minutes.

For more information, to find out why you should choose Lingua Translations as your preferred language service provider, or to enquire about our telephone interpreting services and professional interpreting services, simply contact us on: Tel: +44 (0)1792 469990 or email:

The Challenges of translation

The Challenges of translation


There is more to translation than transferring the words from one language into another, it involves the translation of feelings, emotions and thoughts. Every language has a unique structure or word order. The simpler the language is, the easier it is to translate that language to another one. A poorly written text can make matters much more complex, as the meaning can be hard to understand and therefore to render into a different language.

The role of translators in the development of international relations, economics, arts, movies and scientific exchange, is vast. Translators facilitate social, artistic, cultural, political and scientific communication.


Homonyms (words with the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings) can mislead the translator. Using the wrong meaning can ruin a phrase or make it seem absurd. Sometimes different words have an overlap in their definition, meaning and use but they are not used in quite the same way or have a mismatch in certain contexts. This can lead to misuse or different meaning in the target text as words might have an implied value judgement in one language but not in another.

It is not strange to stumble upon a word that has no equivalent in the target language. Which is very likely to be found in legal documents because of the different legislation or in technical texts where many key terms are used to describe technological progress that has no equivalent in another language since it’s a brand-new concept. A good solution in this case is to come up with a phrase that conveys the meaning.


Sarcasm is a sharp or bitter way of expressing thoughts or a remark that usually means the opposite of what people say. It usually loses its meaning if translated word-for-word into a different language. Finding the right equivalents in the target language is not always an easy task. Cultural differences between languages and the culture of their speakers can only make this mission more daunting. Many jokes and idioms are culture-bond and would not make any sense in the target language if translated literally.

The best way to insure the meaning of your text is rendered efficiently into the target language is to use qualified professional translator like the ones we use at Lingua Translations. We make sure the target text conveys the meaning you want to communicate to your audience. Only the human translator is able of interpreting cultural components in the source text and that cannot be translated in terms of equivalent terms. As well as understanding the different cultural, linguistic and semantic nuances in order to produce a target text that has the same effect as the source text.



La traducción es más que pasar las palabras de un idioma a otro, implica la traducción de sentimientos, emociones y pensamientos. Cada lengua posee una estructura u orden de palabras único. Cuanto más sencillo sea el lenguaje, más fácil es de traducir ese idioma a otro. Un texto mal escrito puede hacer esta tare mucho más ardua, ya que el significado puede resultar difícil de comprender y, por lo tanto, de transmitir en un idioma distinto.

El papel del traductor en el desarrollo de las relaciones internacionales, economía, arte, cine e intercambios científicos es enorme. Facilitan la comunicación social, artística, cultural, política y científica.

Los homónimos

Los homónimos (palabras con la misma ortografía y pronunciación, pero de significados diferentes) pueden confundir al traductor. Utilizar el significado erróneo puede arruinar la frase o hacerla absurda. En ocasiones, diferentes palabras se solapan en algunas acepciones, pero no se usan de la misma manera o son incompatibles en algunos contextos. Esto puede llevar al mal uso o cambio de significado en el texto meta ya que éstas pueden tener un valor implícito en un idioma, pero no en el otro.

No es extraño encontrarse con una palabra que no tiene equivalente en el idioma meta. Esto es muy probable en documentos legales debido a la diferencia en la legislación o en textos técnicos donde muchos términos se utilizan para describir el progreso tecnológico que no tiene equivalente en otra lengua por tratarse de un nuevo concepto. Una buena solución en este caso sería crear una frase que transmita el mismo significado.

El sarcasmo

El sarcasmo es una manera de expresar pensamientos o hacer comentarios agudos o viperinos en la que se quiere decir lo contrario a lo expresado verbalmente. Normalmente pierde sentido si se traduce literalmente en otro idioma. Encontrar los equivalentes adecuados en la lengua meta no es siempre una tarea sencilla. Las diferencias culturales entre idiomas y la cultura de sus hablantes sólo pueden hacer este cometido más intimidante. Muchas bromas y expresiones están ligadas a la cultura y no tienen sentido en la lengua meta si se traducen literalmente.

La mejor manera de asegurarse de que su texto se transmita eficazmente en el idioma meta es utilizar traductores profesionales como los que usamos en Lingua Translations. Nos aseguramos de que su texto transmita el significado que usted quiere comunicar a su público. Sólo los traductores humanos con capaces de interpretar los componentes culturales en el texto de origen y que no tienen términos equivalentes. Además de comprender los distintos matices culturales, lingüísticos y semánticos para producir un texto meta con el mismo efecto que el texto de origen.