Money paid to qualified technical writers and translators in a localization project is money spent very well indeed.

Why? Because the worst thing for a project is to have the customers or end users switch to another product since they either cannot understand the instructions and the interface, or the localized copy contains embarrassing mistakes which destroy the brand name.

The very expensive “localization” mistake that General Motors committed years ago immediately comes to mind when the Chevrolet managers could not figure out why a certain brand was not selling at all in Latin American countries. The reason was actually obvious to any native Spanish speaker. The brand’s model name “Nova” translated as “does not go” into Spanish.

Here are some other localization mishaps that could’ve been¬† Nigerian Music¬† avoided by more care either on the part of the localization managers or the technical writers and translators involved:

A handbook for traffic cops was translated into Hebrew which was supposed to include the standard question “Are you carrying a weapon?” “Weapon” means “neshek” in Hebrew. When it was mistranslated as “neshika”, the same question became “Can I give you a kiss?” since “neshika” means “a kiss.”

An “instruction” posted inside an elevator in Belgrade: “To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin enter more persons, each one should press a number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.”

A product label from China: “CUI MEI SI – BURNEDMEAT Flavor Biscuits”

From a Chinese real-estate brochure singing the praises of a new high-rise housing development: “Every Heart Will Be Attacked!”

A company name painted prominently on a truck in Fukuoka, Japan: “DUCK!”

The name of a restaurant in Niigata, Japan: “Gross Diner”

A product label from China: “MAN’S LIP BALM – This product adopts and mends water to fill a prescription uniquely, suck many kinds of natural nutrition protect wet composition, permeate lip crack in an all-round way, give play to moist to take good care of function, relieve the crack of lip caused by the wind is wounded or severe cold weather rapidly. Resist the climate ro the harmful effects that the lips cause effectively, make the lips keep the moist feeling.”


Ugur Akinci, PhD is a Fortune 500 Senior Technical Writer who loves to share his technical writing tips, tutorials and advice with those who subscribe to his FREE Technical Writing Tips email list at []

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