Linguist Spotlight: Translation Horror Stories - Multilingual Connections

Linguist Spotlight: Translation Horror Stories

Translation Horror Stories
Want to stay connected?

We periodically share news and updates around translation, language and culture. Rest assured we’ll never share your contact information with anyone!

Topic: Our Talent


Everyone knows that the scariest stories are based on real life. And with Halloween right around the corner, we collected a few horror stories that are sure to scare anyone in the localization industry. Ready for a frightful Halloween? Read on!

The Storm of 14,000 Words

Once upon a time, it was a beautiful sunny day. I was happy and in a really good mood, and

I got the feeling that nothing could go wrong. Later that afternoon, I received an email from my PM —a new project! This was the cherry on the cake. I opened the email and realized that it belonged to the field of pharmacology, but it especially came from the biopharmaceutical company Pfizer. At that moment I was feeling unstoppable and capable of doing anything, of helping the world as a translation hero. So, I definitely accepted the job offer without thinking too much. All of a sudden, the blue sky was covered with black clouds —it turned pitch black, the day was done and the night came unexpectedly. It started pouring outside. It seemed it was the apocalypse. The city was struck by thunder and lightning, and I could hear an ugly and scary thunderstorm approaching. Scared by the roar of the storm, I scrolled down the email and tears started to burst from my eyes when I read the word count was 14,000 and the deadline was in THREE DAYS… THREE DAYS! I realized the thunderstorm was so close that it was actually striking my brain. Desperate, I started thinking “Is it too late to reject the project?” But at that moment, I had an epiphany echoing in my mind: “You can do this!”

Let the game begin… 4,700 words per day of full non-stop translation, no sleep, no social life… that was the time of my life when I started praying Buda, Batman, and the aliens for a miracle. Finally, I made it… How? I wasn’t sure.

The moral of this horror story? I am not Wonder Woman and I am not ready for “Saw Part 2.” I’ve learned from my mistakes. And remember, my dearest colleagues: read all the instructions of your PM before accepting a project —your sanity is more important than money.

This story is contributed by Multilingual Connections’ translator and editor, Jessica. Jessica has been working with Multilingual Connections for over 2 years, and she has recently been recognized as Multilingual Connections’ Linguist of the Month. She translates and edits English and Spanish texts in areas of Health Care, Education, Law, and Covid-19, among others.

Too Cool for Words: Pootie Tang


When it comes to translation horror stories, I think about Pootie Tang. Does that name ring a bell? Yes? No? Good for you! The premise of this movie is that nobody knows what the main character says but everyone understands him. His brain is wired differently so he makes up a language. And we had to subtitle it! It was my first year at the company and it was a master class in translation where my supervisor—who handled most of the translation—taught me how to deal with such projects because I had to proof it! That was my graduating project. And after it, I earned a whole year of Kabbalah lectures to translate—I was the only one able to handle them. Boo!

Submitted by Multilingual Connections’ linguist, Rosa

Translation of Your Nightmares

Spanish translation: “Please turn far away rainstorm when you are made. Thank you”

This is an all too familiar horror story. Even though each word in English could be translated as each word used in Spanish, they don’t make any sense when put together. This is a perfect example of machine translation gone wrong that will haunt your dreams 👹

Submitted by Multilingual Connections’ linguist, Rocio

“Roast Grandma” for Dinner

Roast grandma and other tasty treats

A few years ago the Korea Times article reported that 60 of the 185 restaurants with Chinese-translated menus in Korean tourist destinations had mistranslations. Among popular food items on the menu, you could find foods like “spicy and weird soup,” and “roast grandmother” (a mistranslation of pork with aged kimchi). This remains one of our favorite stories, but whether it’s funny or scary, it’s up to you to decide! 

Do you know any translation horror stories? Post them on LinkedIn and tag Multilingual Connections, we look forward to reading them!

Want to stay connected?

We periodically share news and updates around translation, language and culture. Rest assured we’ll never share your contact information with anyone!