If you’re reading and happen to come across a spelling mistake, there are several ways you might react — you could be amused, you could be irritated, you could even be pleased that you caught the error and someone else didn’t.
Or you could be very confused, or even offended. When a spelling mistake appears in a professional translation, the consequences are often more serious than just annoyance or amusement.
Basic text comprehension, profit margins, employment status or even someone’s life could be on the line.
Look Beyond Low-Quality Translations
It’s best to interact with a real, live translator for important translation projects. A reliance on online dictionaries, blogs or websites could result in an inferior or flat-out wrong translation.
Many people who have a rudimentary knowledge of a language believe they can get by if they cross-check their words with websites or blogs. By doing this, however, it is easy to fall prey to homophones: words that sound the same but have different meanings. For example, in Spanish, it would be embarrassing to confuse the verb “cegar” (to blind) with “segar” (to cut off) or the word “cebo” (bait) with “sebo” (fat).
It also seems to be a common practice to turn to online dictionaries to help with tattoo translations. Of course, this can result in all kinds of translation errors — tattoos containing spelling mistakes, tattoos of a list of synonyms, even tattoos of example sentences or advertisements for the dictionary!
Actress Hayden Panettiere learned this the hard way. She wanted to pay homage to her Italian heritage and her life’s motto when she chose to get a tattoo in Italian saying “live without regrets.” Unfortunately, her tattoo reads “vivere senza rimipianti” instead of “vivere senza rimpianti” — the extra “i” in the final word renders it meaningless. The actress told Glamour magazine that the misspelling means she must literally “live by that advice!”
The High Price of Spelling Mistakes
It’s frustrating if a translation ends up with words with missing (or extraneous) letters. But this frustration could have a detrimental effect for entrepreneurs or businesses. According to a July 2011 BBC News article, spelling mistakes cause readers to lose faith in the quality of a website’s content, resulting in “millions … in lost revenue.”
In 2008, engraver Pedro Urzúa Lizana misspelled “Chile” as “Chiie” on 1.5 million Chilean coins of the 50-peso denomination. The spelling mistake caused the engraver and the country deep embarrassment, and several Chilean mint employees lost their jobs over the lack of quality control.
More recently, a printer in Oneida County, N.Y., produced ballots for the 2012 presidential election with a significant misspelling. The printer omitted the “c” in President Barack Obama’s first name. The error was discovered just a few days before the election, incurring approximately $75,000 in reprinting costs.
And in one of the costliest mistakes of all, NASA in 1962 destructed the Mariner 1 spacecraft after it veered off course due to a previously undetected error in its programming code. The craft was worth over $80 million.
The Importance of Using a Professional Translation Company
Whether it’s for a tattoo, a business proposal or an entire book, the words you choose are important and a reflection of you. Spelling mistakes and proofreading errors can have a lasting negative effect — if not on your bottom line, then perhaps your reputation.
To mitigate spelling mistakes and achieve the comprehension you deserve, enlisting the services of a professional translation company will help you get the results you’re looking for.