Editors at the world-famous Max-Planck-Gesellshaft, a highly respected scientific institute based in Germany, had the noble idea of including classical Chinese poetry to accompany a scholarly journal focused on China. Little did they know that the text they chose was from an advertisement for a Chinese brothel and included lines such as “coquettish and enchanting housewives,” “hot housewives in action,” and “jaded-like girls.” The institution cited a German sinologist as the source of the “classical Chinese poem.”
While this type of language blunder provides great comedic value, it also raises a serious question: how to communicate effectively in a foreign language to reach one’s goals in the global economy. A wise first step is to work with professional translators and interpreters to ensure that communication efforts are properly conveying the intended message.
Trying to look cool but losing face in the process because of a simple translation mistake is anything BUT cool.