These get funnier as you read through them, but it says a lot about our need to contextualize things and make sure we know what we’re saying before we speak cross-culturally. 🙂
- Found in a Tokyo car rental shop: “When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”
- Majorcan shop: “English well talking. Here speeching American.”
- Bucharest hotel: “The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.”
- Moscow hotel: “You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.”
- In an East African newspaper: “A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.”
- In a Rhodes tailor shop: “Order your summers suit. Because is big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.”
- Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: “Ladies may have a fit upstairs.”
- The Coca-Cola® name in China was first read as “Kekoukela,” meaning “Bit the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax,” depending upon the dialect. Coke® then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “kokou kole,” translating into “happiness in the mouth.”
- In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: “We take your bags and send them in all directions.”
- When KFC® entered the Chinese market, they discovered that their slogan “finger lickin’ good” was translated as “eat your fingers off.”
- When Gerber® started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the United States, with the smiling baby on the label. Later, they learned that in Africa, companies put the pictures on the labels of what’s inside since many people can’t read.
- Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: “Stop: Drive sideways.”1
*taken from TESOLS learning course material.