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  • Writer's pictureRustam Shafikov

Lost in Translation: Critical Mistakes That Had Consequences

Translation is an important part of communication between people who speak different languages. It allows us to share ideas, express ourselves, and understand each other. However, translating from one language to another is not always easy, and mistakes can have critical effects. In this article, we will explore some of the most famous mistakes in translation and their consequences.

The "Pepsi" in China

In the 1960s, PepsiCo entered the Chinese market and launched its first ad campaign with the slogan "Pepsi brings you back to life." Unfortunately, the translation was a disaster. In Chinese, the slogan read "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave." This was a critical mistake, as Chinese culture places great emphasis on respecting ancestors, and the slogan was seen as disrespectful and offensive. As a result, Pepsi's sales in China suffered for many years.

The "All Your Base" Meme

In 1998, a Japanese video game called "Zero Wing" was translated into English. Unfortunately, the translation was poor and led to a famous meme known as "All Your Base." One of the lines in the game's intro read, "All your base are belong to us," which became a popular catchphrase on the internet. While the mistake was harmless, it became an example of how poor translation can have unexpected consequences.

The Bible Translation

In the 16th century, the Bible was translated into English by William Tyndale. However, Tyndale's translation contained a critical error. In the Ten Commandments, he translated "Thou shalt not commit adultery" as "Thou shalt commit adultery." This was a simple mistake, as the two words are very similar in Old English. However, the mistake had serious consequences for Tyndale, who was arrested and executed for heresy.

The "Finger Lickin' Good" Campaign

In the 1980s, KFC launched a new ad campaign in China with the slogan "Finger Lickin' Good." Unfortunately, the slogan was translated as "Eat Your Fingers Off." This was a critical mistake, as it was seen as a serious threat to people's safety. KFC quickly changed the slogan to "We Do Chicken Right," but the damage was already done, and the campaign was a failure.

The "Nova" Car

In the 1960s, General Motors launched a new car called the "Nova" in Latin America. Unfortunately, the name had a critical translation mistake. In Spanish, "No va" means "it doesn't go," which is not a great name for a car. As a result, the car failed to sell in Latin America, and GM had to rename it the "Caribe."


In conclusion, translation is a critical part of communication, and mistakes can have serious consequences. From offensive slogans to critical errors in the Bible, these mistakes can impact sales, reputations, and even people's lives. As such, it is important to take translation seriously and use professional translators who are fluent in both languages.

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