40+ real examples of totally avoidable translation mistakes found in Prague

I recently returned from a really great business trip to Prague, Czech Republic. I have a killer eye for detail and mistakes in written English really jump out at me. Hi, my name is Jemma and I correct apostrophes on posters in pub toilets.

I don’t agree with grammar shaming things other individuals have written – especially personal posts and non-commercial content. That’s not what this is about. We can’t all be good at all things – but that’s when it’s important to bring in an expert. In the translation industry that means a native speaker of the target language (the language you want the translation in) who has a professionally-recognised translation qualification. Using a language student, teacher, intern, neighbour, someone who once went on holiday to that country just won’t produce good enough results. And ultimately it is the business that suffers. And we can see evidence of this in these examples.

Being careful not to name names, I've put a few of the real and current examples of Czech into English translation mistakes that I found on my trip at the bottom of this post. They come from different types of content – from menus to public signs and notices, and all types of businesses – from budget to high-end. Skip to the bottom of the page to check them out now.

 

The most common mistakes

1. Literal word-for-word translation that sounds unnatural and has poor flow

This indicates:

  • Machine translation
  • A non-native speaker
  • A non-qualified translator who does not fully understand the source language so is afraid to venture too far from the original wording
  • Lack of knowledge of translation theory and best practice
    For example, literal translation of place names
  • Lack of local cultural knowledge
    This is particularly a problem with menus and perhaps a translator who has never even been to the country of the source language. Therefore, beware large global translation agencies offering super cheap rates – you won’t know where your translator is based or their individual skills, experience or credentials.
  • Wrong tone of voice
    For example, using formal legal English for sports event marketing

 

2. Spelling mistakes

These are usually caused by:

  • Writing words as they sound
    This is very common for people who mostly work with spoken English (like waiters/tour guides/salespersons) or people who have never formally studied a language and have learnt through real-life practice (and kudos for that – it’s just not quite right for written work that will be published and/or printed).
  • Source and target words are very similar
    For example: salát (CS) and salad (EN); limonáda (CS) and lemonade (EN)
  • Rushed work (unfeasible deadlines)
  • Overwork (high volumes with no time for attention to detail)

 

3. Incorrect word choice

This indicates:

  • Translating from memory without research or referencing
  • Incorrect use of machine translation or online/paper dictionaries – there usually several words per entry and not all will fit into every context

 

4. Punctuation issues

The cause is very often:

  • Insufficient knowledge of the target language grammar
  • Copying over source language punctuation as default

 

5. Format issues (missing spaces/double spaces, incorrect line breaks, inconsistent style, incorrect capitalisation)

Common causes include:

  • Layout is done by a someone who doesn't speak the target language
  • No attention to detail
  • No time for checks
  • Lack of corporate style guide for consistency

 

Gist understanding

The examples given below fall into two categories: major and minor errors.
Major mistakes are just plain wrong or misleading. This results in unsatisfied customers who may complain, not pay/request a discount, leave a bad review (either officially on a website or with friends and family) and not come back again. Prague is an international city full of expats, international students and tourists. Most of them do not speak Czech and they rely on English translations provided by businesses. When the English is wrong, it makes it even harder for people using English as a second language to interact with your business. In many cases the message is totally lost. In today’s competitive market, these are just barriers you don’t need.
Others are just so-called "minor" issues where the main message can still be understood in general – enough to get by. But when it comes to business, if you don’t care about getting content right, your customer will know. It looks careless and unprofessional and this affects how your potential and existing customers feel about your business. It may not be a conscious or immediate rejection, but on some level these kinds of mistakes are irritating, introduce doubt and reduce customer engagement and/or loyalty: If Business X couldn’t be bothered to get a good translation, maybe they don’t care about the product/service they deliver either.

 

False economy

In my experience, the most common reason for not using a professional translator is cost – businesses believe they can do it cheaper (and for the more arrogant ones better) themselves. But it’s a false economy. The old sayings are true:

  • Buy cheap, pay twice.
  • Pay peanuts, get monkeys.
  • If you think using a professional is expensive, try using an amateur.

Just as you wouldn’t trust "DIY Dave" to fix your gas boiler and heating at home, you shouldn’t entrust your business’s content to just anyone. Your written word is usually the first contact many customers have with your business – so it’s important to get this right and give the best impression you can. Only a professional wordsmith can deliver this.

 

The curse of instant publishing

We’re all human and mistakes such as typos and spelling mistakes do happen. That’s why it’s just so important to also use a professional editor/proofreader. With the rise of digital content, it’s all too easy to get into the habit of rushing out content on-the-fly in real time. After all, there’s an edit button and IF you later find a mistake it can be fixed. But a lot of the examples below are from print materials. This means that using the wrong person for translation and copywriting means there's a high risk having to re-do costly print runs because of silly typos and formatting issues. Or, where materials with mistakes are not corrected and re-printed, the cost is paid in customer engagement and the reputation of the business.

 

Expert English

Don’t make the same mistakes as these companies. Invest in your customer base by investing in a good translator who has an eye for detail. Perfect content that is designed to resonate with your target audience is worth paying for. It will produce a much better ROI than shoddily translated or written content. Let the quality of your business services and products be reflected in the quality of message that you are giving your customers.

If you need help making sure your English-language content is perfect for publishing and tailored to your target market, then get in touch. Here at Language JEM we offer translation from Russian and Czech into English, Monolingual Review, Editing, Proofreading, Pre-print Review, Brand Voice, Style Guides and Copywriting services tailored to the needs of your business.

 

My translation: DO NOT INTERFERE WITH THE CHIP The chip must remain fixed to the start number at all times.  Mistranslation, possibly mixing "tamper" and "hamper". This is from an international event where many visitors would be relying on an accurate English version.

My translation: DO NOT INTERFERE WITH THE CHIP The chip must remain fixed to the start number at all times.

Mistranslation, possibly mixing "tamper" and "hamper". This is from an international event where many visitors would be relying on an accurate English version.

My translation: Change your gilet size  Vest (US English) = waistcoat (UK English) and this was more of a sporty gilet for running.

My translation: Change your gilet size

Vest (US English) = waistcoat (UK English) and this was more of a sporty gilet for running.


My translation: Pork neck fillet steak with potato cakes and fried onions

My translation: Pork neck fillet steak with potato cakes and fried onions

My translation: Beef sirloin in a creamy vegetable sauce with bread dumplings and cranberry sauce  Svíčková is a traditional Czech dish and it requires explanation for the uninitiated  
  
   16.00 
  
  
   
  
    
  
   Normal 
   0 
   
   
   
   
   false 
   false 
   false 
   
   EN-GB 
   X-NONE 
   X-NONE 
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
 table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-right:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0cm;
	line-height:107%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
	mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
	mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}
 
  to understand what they are ordering. It literally means "candle" and one theory of the origin is that goldsmiths working by candlelight were given an extra portion of meat to help keep their eyes healthy.

My translation: Beef sirloin in a creamy vegetable sauce with bread dumplings and cranberry sauce

Svíčková is a traditional Czech dish and it requires explanation for the uninitiated to understand what they are ordering. It literally means "candle" and one theory of the origin is that goldsmiths working by candlelight were given an extra portion of meat to help keep their eyes healthy.

My translation: Braised beef shin ragu in a red wine root vegetable sauce, served with mashed potato and Brussels sprouts with bacon

My translation: Braised beef shin ragu in a red wine root vegetable sauce, served with mashed potato and Brussels sprouts with bacon


My correction: Cars are on the 2nd floor (US) / Cars are on the 1st floor (UK)  As a language learner myself I know that prepositions are the hardest thing to get right in another language.

My correction: Cars are on the 2nd floor (US) / Cars are on the 1st floor (UK)

As a language learner myself I know that prepositions are the hardest thing to get right in another language.


My correction: with roast turkey, Granny Smith apple and baked Brie  This one is actually misleading as "baked" or "roasted" is translated as "bacon" so the customer will be expecting bacon in the sandwich and could be disappointed when it does not come that way, possibly resulting in a complaint and reduced payment.

My correction: with roast turkey, Granny Smith apple and baked Brie

This one is actually misleading as "baked" or "roasted" is translated as "bacon" so the customer will be expecting bacon in the sandwich and could be disappointed when it does not come that way, possibly resulting in a complaint and reduced payment.

My correction: slow cooked roast beef

My correction: slow cooked roast beef

My translation: Romaine lettuce / Cos lettuce

My translation: Romaine lettuce / Cos lettuce

My translation: SMOKEY PULLED PORK BURGER slow roasted pulled pork, coleslaw, barbecue sauce

My translation: SMOKEY PULLED PORK BURGER slow roasted pulled pork, coleslaw, barbecue sauce

My correction: ...cucumber and salad (or better still: lettuce)

My correction: ...cucumber and salad (or better still: lettuce)

My translation: Hamburgers are served with French fries and barbecue sauce

My translation: Hamburgers are served with French fries and barbecue sauce

My translation: a platter of roast beef slices, vegetables and toasted ciabatta  Czech doesn't have words for definite or indefinite articles "the" and "a", so its misuse is common in Czech into English translation.

My translation: a platter of roast beef slices, vegetables and toasted ciabatta

Czech doesn't have words for definite or indefinite articles "the" and "a", so its misuse is common in Czech into English translation.


My correction: Chicken broth with peas and rice

My correction: Chicken broth with peas and rice


My correction: Mezi Hřbitovy (literally the stop between the cemeteries)  Here, in the context of a map and a tram stop, Mezi Hřbitovy literally means the stop between the cemeteries  
  
   16.00 
  
  
   
  
    
  
   Normal 
   0 
   
   
   
   
   false 
   false 
   false 
   
   EN-GB 
   X-NONE 
   X-NONE 
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
 table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
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	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin-top:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-right:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt;
	mso-para-margin-left:0cm;
	line-height:107%;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
	mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
	mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}
 
 . Some names like "Staroměstská" metro stop can be translated to Old Town Square, and "Václavské náměstí" to Wenceslas Square. But not all tram, bus and metro stops need to be translated and doing so actually makes it harder for non-Czech speakers to get around town as they cannot match the actual stop names to maps or announcements.

My correction: Mezi Hřbitovy (literally the stop between the cemeteries)

Here, in the context of a map and a tram stop, Mezi Hřbitovy literally means the stop between the cemeteries. Some names like "Staroměstská" metro stop can be translated to Old Town Square, and "Václavské náměstí" to Wenceslas Square. But not all tram, bus and metro stops need to be translated and doing so actually makes it harder for non-Czech speakers to get around town as they cannot match the actual stop names to maps or announcements.


My translation: GOULASH SOUP IN A BREAD BOWL (with fresh marjoram and potatoes in a baked bread bowl)  Note the main menu item in bold is missing from the translation.

My translation: GOULASH SOUP IN A BREAD BOWL (with fresh marjoram and potatoes in a baked bread bowl)

Note the main menu item in bold is missing from the translation.

My translation: Bar snacks

My translation: Bar snacks


My translation: Chicken caesar salad with croutons, grilled bacon and parmesan and cheddar cheese chips  All of these examples are about " chicken meat ". It's one of the most common mistakes I see. In English leaving out the word "meat" does not imply that you are having dinner with a chicken (as opposed to eating chicken).

My translation: Chicken caesar salad with croutons, grilled bacon and parmesan and cheddar cheese chips

All of these examples are about "chicken meat". It's one of the most common mistakes I see. In English leaving out the word "meat" does not imply that you are having dinner with a chicken (as opposed to eating chicken).

ChickenMeat2.jpg
ChickenMeat3.jpg

My translation: Toilet paper is available from the entrance  This sign is from a public toilet (not a theatre - tickets are not being sold to watch people use the facilities). There's a small cabin at the entrance where you pay and take some toilet paper.

My translation: Toilet paper is available from the entrance

This sign is from a public toilet (not a theatre - tickets are not being sold to watch people use the facilities). There's a small cabin at the entrance where you pay and take some toilet paper.


InTheBreadCS.jpg
My correction: Soup in a bread bowl

My correction: Soup in a bread bowl


My translation: The terraces are not maintained when it snows or is icy. Enter at your own risk.

My translation: The terraces are not maintained when it snows or is icy. Enter at your own risk.


ChiveCS.jpg
My translation: THREE EGGS IN A GLASS (eggs, chives, parmesan, and bread roll)  THREE EGGS IN A GLASS SPECIAL add bacon or avocado

My translation: THREE EGGS IN A GLASS (eggs, chives, parmesan, and bread roll)

THREE EGGS IN A GLASS SPECIAL add bacon or avocado

CrunchyBaconCS.jpg
My translation: CLUB SANDWICH (bread, turkey, homemade mayo, mini pickles, iceberg lettuce, crispy bacon, egg, tomato)

My translation: CLUB SANDWICH (bread, turkey, homemade mayo, mini pickles, iceberg lettuce, crispy bacon, egg, tomato)

CrunchyBreadCS.jpg
My translation: (Poached eggs served on crusty roll with spinach, warm hollandaise and ham off the bone)  Sausages served with crusty bread

My translation: (Poached eggs served on crusty roll with spinach, warm hollandaise and ham off the bone)

Sausages served with crusty bread

FarmWithCheese_SmoothOmletteCS.jpg
My translation: OMELETTE (fluffy omelette made with eggs from a family farm, cheddar cheese and ham, served with salad and a crusty bread roll.

My translation: OMELETTE (fluffy omelette made with eggs from a family farm, cheddar cheese and ham, served with salad and a crusty bread roll.


My translation: Choose from a wide selection at the bar

My translation: Choose from a wide selection at the bar

My translation: Cocktails / Banofee cocktail

My translation: Cocktails / Banofee cocktail

My translation: Homemade lemonade 0.5 l 100% RAW see daily selection, no artificial colours or preservatives

My translation: Homemade lemonade 0.5 l 100% RAW see daily selection, no artificial colours or preservatives

My translation: with salted caramel and coconut sugar

My translation: with salted caramel and coconut sugar

My translation: gently sparkling, still

My translation: gently sparkling, still

My translation: Ice cream sundaes

My translation: Ice cream sundaes


My correction: It provides the body with minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids.

My correction: It provides the body with minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids.

My translation: Extra pizza toppings

My translation: Extra pizza toppings

My translation: We will gladly make your coffee with soy milk.

My translation: We will gladly make your coffee with soy milk.

My correction: Homemade pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil  Noodles are mainly used for Asian cuisine.

My correction: Homemade pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil

Noodles are mainly used for Asian cuisine.

My correction: ice cream served in a cup (if it's a paper cup like at a cinema, or "in a bowl" if it is crockery)

My correction: ice cream served in a cup (if it's a paper cup like at a cinema, or "in a bowl" if it is crockery)

My translation: sponge biscuits, whipped cream, Kahlua and Amaretto liqueurs, dusting of cocoa powder

My translation: sponge biscuits, whipped cream, Kahlua and Amaretto liqueurs, dusting of cocoa powder


My translation:   
  
   
  
    
  
   Normal 
   0 
   
   
   
   
   false 
   false 
   false 
   
   EN-GB 
   X-NONE 
   X-NONE 
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
   
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
  
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
  
   
 
 /* Style Definitions */
 table.MsoNormalTable
	{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
	mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
	mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
	mso-style-noshow:yes;
	mso-style-priority:99;
	mso-style-parent:"";
	mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
	mso-para-margin:0cm;
	mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt;
	mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
	font-size:11.0pt;
	font-family:"Calibri",sans-serif;
	mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
	mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;
	mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
	mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;
	mso-fareast-language:EN-US;}
 
 Trofie pasta with a rich meaty sauce

My translation: Trofie pasta with a rich meaty sauce

My correction: Butterfish fillet with mountain-lentil salad

My correction: Butterfish fillet with mountain-lentil salad