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Today's special, hairy potato balls…



When your business uses several languages it is very important to make sure your message isn't lost in translation.

There's nothing more embarrassing than exposing your business to the ridicule of a socially enabled public.

When I first came to England I was curious about so-called 'Spanish restaurants'.
I decided to try tapas from a well-known Newcastle restaurant.

The menu was replete with errors of all kinds. The names of the Spanish dishes had plenty of spelling mistakes; the translation was poor and sometimes completely wrong.


Menu in correct English. Number 10. And hair in potato balls? Interesting translation! Read the full article to find out more...



When the waitress came to take my order I pointed to the tapa called, 'Y pelos en las bolas de patata' and told her the literal translation was, 'and hair in potato balls'.

She was somewhat surprised, and told me that everybody working at the restaurant was English with no knowledge of Spanish, not even the manager.


Lost in translation...


Above you can see a shot of the original menu which taken with a mobile phone. It's difficult to read the Spanish version because every single word is capitalised. Let's not mention the spelling mistakes, joining words together 'ala' instead of 'a la', inventing new words like 'stifado' for 'estofado', or 'plop' for 'pollo', using the name of a greek dish 'keftedes' instead of 'albóndigas', missing accents in 'ibérico' and 'chilindrón', and the rather revolting addition of 'hair' to potato and meat balls. See the proofreading process.

We've reproduced the same kind of mistakes for you to see how a Spaniard would feel reading the version we were given at the restaurant in Newcastle. Imagine you go to an English Pub in Spain, and the menu below is given to you. Click on the pictures to see a larger version.


Menu in correct Spanish and wrong English

Imagine, as an English speaker in Spain, you choose to visit an English pub where on the menu you find, 'lunch the farmer' rather than a 'Ploughman's lunch' and a waitress is unable to explain what the dish is.

Is that the type of experience you would recommend to your friends?


Menu in correct Spanish


Working with native speakers gives your company the confidence to approach the market with the right message, one tailored to the local culture. A business that fails to translate its literature accurately, and ignores cultural differences, only makes its competitors more attractive. Knowledge of the language is not sufficient; you need to have lived in a country to understand how people's minds work, what they like, and how they like to be approached. If you make people feel good in their own language they will be happy to come back again and again.

Are you confident about the Spanish messages you're displaying at the moment?

If you're not 100% sure, you can drop me a line. I can check your translations free of charge and tell you if you need to adapt it or, indeed, whether it's fine as it is.



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