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International Business: Why that final proof is worth the effort: Insert translation here

Published: Friday, March 30 2012 7:33 a.m. MDT

Are you ever in such a rush that you wonder if a final proof is absolutely necessary before making something public? Here are a few examples that should help motivate us all to perform one last check before text or audio goes live in English or any other language.

“Maria Dmitrienko won a gold medal for Kazakhstan on (March 22) at the Arab Shooting Championships in Kuwait,” reported the Associated Press. “But during the award ceremony the public address system broadcast the spoof anthem from the 2006 movie "Borat," which offended many Kazakhs by portraying the country as backward and degenerate.”

The lyrics written by the raunchy comedian Sasha Baron Cohen begin, “Kazakhstan, greatest country in the world. All other countries are run by little girls.” The words only become more ridiculous and quite obscene as the mock anthem continues. That the anthem was a fake should have been obvious to one of the organizers if they spoke English, but since most presumably did not – the language of the region being Arabic – the error went unnoticed until it was too late.

Knowing that Cohen’s parody actually purports to be Kazakhstan’s anthem, and that it appears in online search results for “the national anthem of Kazakhstan,” this mistake is more understandable than confusing the correct anthem with Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca.” Now that this is water under the bridge and the team from Kazakhstan was very forgiving, event organizers may take minor comfort in knowing they are not the only ones who do not double-check their work to prevent what are – to some – seemingly obvious public blunders in other languages.

On Facebook, a man named Sahil Anand, living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, posted a photo of a diesel tanker with the comment, “A contract company out here was asked to stencil on the side of a fuel tanker, Diesel Fuel in Arabic and No Smoking in Arabic. This is what came back.”

The resulting warning on the tanker shows someone took the written instructions very literally and did not bother to obtain proofreading from a native English speaker. The black, white and red text says, “Diesel Fuel in Arbic” (sic) and “NOSMOKING in Arabic” (sic).

IBM blogger Victoria Ovens discovered an equally peculiar little camping table at Walmart with the following label and description printed neatly on its box:

Folding Aluminum Table Spanish Here

  • Versatile, Sturdy, Portable, Compact and Lightweight Design
  • Easy to Set Up and Take Down
  • Quality Aluminum Construction
  • For Indoor or Outdoor Use
  • Spanish Here Spanish Here
  • Spanish Here
  • Spanish Here
  • Spanish Here

No, that is not a joke, and I did not forget something. The package really read, “Spanish Here.”

Similarly, FailBlog.org has a photo of wood plug packaging from a hardware store that reads as follows:

"All wooden plugs can be painted or stained and are available in a variety of sizes. Made of hardwood."

Spanish — "All wooden plugs can be painted or stained and are available in a variety of sizes. Made of hardwood."

French — "All wooden plugs can be painted or stained and are available in a variety of sizes. Made of hardwood."

Perhaps the final proofers are not doing their jobs, or perhaps they are responsible for printing in a language they do not understand. In any case, we will all avoid a little embarrassment if we ensure a final proof is performed and it is performed by a native speaker of the printed – or recorded – language.

Adam Wooten is director of translation services at Lingotek. He also teaches a course on translation technology at Brigham Young University. Email: awooten@lingotek.com. Follow him on Twitter at AdamWooten.

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