Multilingual communication in a digital world


Can you spot the grammatical errors in the Spanish here? Do they distract you from the message? Would you approve this packaging if it were for your product? Have we devolved into a culture of mediocrity or evolved into a culture of expediency? Comment below!

In trolling the supermarket for our daily bread, we came across this packaging, in Spanish and English. Linguistically, the information imparted is ungrammatical. However, the gist of the information is not mangled or altered in spite of its lack of grammaticality. This translation could be labeled “good enough.” Linguistically, it is semantically acceptable. In the age of machine translation, Google Translate, etc., is good enough sufficient? Is it, truly, good enough just to get the message across? What’s your opinion? Feel free to comment below!

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Comments on: "Is “Good Enough” Sufficient in Translation?" (10)

  1. Espantoso el español! Una verguenza que no quieran pagarle dos mangos a un traductor para que quede bien escrito~!

  2. Los errores aca los veo bien, pero nunca encontre los errores del cartel de Disney…

    • langdevco said:

      There was only one error in the Disney sign: “No smoking (fire breathing creatures accepted). It is a usage error.

      The sign should read: “No smoking (fire breathing creatures excepted).”

      “To accept” means to say “yes” to something but in the context of these what-not-to-do, what-is-not-allowed rules, in particular, the “no smoking” rule, it doesn’t make sense to use this verb, in this way, without explanation. If it were, on the other hand, an employment ad that stated “Non-smokers preferred (but fire breathing creatures accepted)” it would have been o’kay.

      In this context, most likely, Disney is saying that fire breathing creatures are exempt, “excepted” from, not restricted by this rule – because, as everybody knows, fire breathing creatures do not always have control over their fire breathing!

  3. It’s definitely not good enough. I don’t get the meaning, because of how poorly this is written in Spanish.

  4. Gumersindo Sanchez-Gomez said:

    No it is not. The end of translation is to achieve an “equivalent effect” from the target audience. In an example like this, the translation process is not transparent it draws attention to itself and becomes a signifier in its own right absent from the original. For instance, I avoid any Mexican or Spanish restaurant in London with misspellings in the menu. The added subtext they add to the original it is in this case “It is not the real thing, it is bastardised”. In other contexts it has the added implied value of not meeting the social expectations of the target audience: “if they haven’t bothered with the translation, it can only be a cheap knock-off you buy from a street market not a reputable retailer”.

  5. At the end of the day, it usually depends on the client – they pay for what they are willing to get. Unfortunately, it is true, they sometimes don’t know what they are getting because they can’t read the target language, but the poor sales as a result of their packaging error would soon come back to haunt them no doubt… If we as translators are expected to strive for excellence, then translations should never be just “good enough”.

  6. Silvia Schrage said:

    How much the error affects the purchase depends on the product. I would not take seriously a magazine, a book, or any material providing some kind of scientific or specialized information (nutrition, instruction manual, etc) that was full of errors.

    In this case, the problem in the marketing goes beyond the translation. If “sip-a-pop” is selling a gadget, not the actual posicles, the phrase: “the neat frozen treat that you can sip and eat” doesn’t make sense, because the writing is equating “treat” to the mold, vs. the popsicle. No one is going to eat the mold.

    Still, if I was shopping for poscicle molds, I would probably be more drawn to the shape/size of the actual mold, regardless of the wording. Especially, if a given store only had one kind on the shelf. However, if there were two different brands, and one had better writing on the packaging, I might take more seriously the brand with better writing, thinking they are more professional and intelligent, and they would probably offer a better warranty, customer service, etc.

    So, if you are looking for a one-time customer, of a cheap product in a supermarket, it might not make much of a difference in actual sales volume. But overall, I would think that creating a more professional image of a product, would always benefit the company. It could also be that the product with bad writing/grammar (in the original and/or the translation), would only be sold by cheaper stores, and they would lose the higher end sales market.

  7. Well I find a lot of those and sometimes I need to think twice to figure out what they trying to say. Unfortunately some of the thighs I am see translating are documents or paper from larges and very important companies. I just hoping their customers understand what they trying to tell them.

  8. Isabel Meli said:

    I consider this “Marketing Ignorance”. This is not the first time I encounter a fixed label intended to promote and advertise a product that does completely the opposite. Careless launching of a product only hurts business/ profits big time! Marketers are being penny foolish-PERIOD!! Words that are sitting strong for everyone to read is good advertising in any language. They should bring a smile to your face and not have you cringe over in trying to figure out what it means.

  9. I see nothing “good enough” in that subpar translation. For a translation to be semantically acceptable, you have to identify all the meanings and convey them in an unambiguous fashion…which does not happen here. So, your example is not even semantically acceptable.

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