Panic on the Plane!

Adam Wooten who is vice president at a well-known translation and localization company puts some important points about airplane manual translation into words. Most of people are still afraid of planes. For many of us, it is hard to understand how tons of iron can fly for hours. We either get some alcohol to feel more comfortable or read the same manuels and magazines over and over. We stare at the cabin attendants to understand if there is something wrong or everything is ok. Imagine that you read mistranslated manuels or hear mistranslated announcements. How would you feel? 

The mistranslated airplane manual could have been as dangerously garbled for pilots and mechanics as the emergency exit instructions translated from Spanish to English that read, “Handcuff until the it collide and without loosing it pull the hatch.” How comfortable would you feel following those instructions after a crash landing?

Serious consequences can result from mistranslations in other industries too, such as the automotive, medical and pharmaceutical fields. Such potentially deadly missteps make the false alarm aboard the Aer Lingus flight seem quite trivial. Fortunately, many aircraft mistranslations are not nearly so frightening.

Some, like the “airline pulp” label, are actually quite humorous and nonsensical. A Russian airline once advertised“wide boiled aircraft for your comfort.” Air China has distributed moist towelettes with the English label, “wet turban needless wash.”

Other in-flight mistranslations are simple typos, like the Japanese customs forms that required passengers to declare a “fight” number. Air Koryo, the state-owned North Korean carrier, has labeled airsickness bags, “For your refuses.” Japan Airlines changed a message from reassuring to worrying simply by overusing quotation marks in the invitation to, “Please enjoy our ‘safe’ and ‘comfortable’ flight.”

Some of these mistranslations include correct spelling and grammar, but convey subtle implications only native speakers will notice. Instructions on a Korean flight read, “Upon arrival at Kimpo and Kimahie Airport, please wear your clothes,” perhaps to warn former Braniff passengers who had been told otherwise – “fly naked” – via a rather infamous Spanish radio mistranslation.

In 2009, French-speaking passengers aboard an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Paris panicked when a faulty translation warned them about an impending crash landing. According to the Daily Mail, about 20 minutes into the flight, an English announcement told passengers the plane was heading into turbulence, a rather routine occurrence. Unfortunately, the pre-recorded French version told passengers the plane was going to crash.

Whether a translation influences marketing or life-and-death user experiences, companies should ensure qualified, professional, native-speaking translators are used. A blundered marketing translation can kill revenue, but other mistranslations might just kill.

For the original article, clik here.

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2 responses to this post.

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