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    Coca Cola, Pepsi, American Airlines … these companies all have one thing in common: they are famous companies that have made translation mistakes because they didn’t use a specialised translation agency. Would you like to hear about the most famous translation mistakes of all time? Here we go.

    Pepsi succeeded in raising the dead

    The well-known soft drinks brand Pepsi launched a very misguided translation campaign in the 1990s. The ad campaign used the slogan “Come alive with Pepsi”. In Spain the slogan was translated well and the literal translation was “Come alive with the Pepsi generation”. However, in other countries such as Taiwan, the translation was not so good. There it was translated much more literally, using a slogan which in the local language translates as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”. Clearly an unfortunate translation.

    Coca Cola waxes lyrical

    We can stay with the soft drinks brands because if Pepsi made a very unfortunate translation error, Coca Cola fared no better. In this case the translation error related to the international expansion of the brand, specifically its entry into China. Coca Cola chose to use kanjis and the translation mistake arose when it failed to check the meaning of these characters, which literally translated as “a mare stuffed with wax”. Once it became aware of its translation mistake, Coca Cola decided to use different kanjis, and to choose those corresponding to the phonetic sound of its name “Ke-Kou-Ke-La” whose meaning is closer to what the brand wanted to convey, namely “happiness in the mouth”.

    American Airlines bares all

    Do you know that American Airlines was keen on nudism? I imagine not. This is of course the result of another translation mistake. It happened when the airline American Airlines wanted to promote its new leather seats in first class. However, it clearly didn’t use the professional translation services of a translation agency like Okodia to promote this service internationally. The airline wanted to advertise itusing the slogan “fly in leather”. However, in the Mexican market they translated this too literallywith the slogan “vuela en cuero” which literally translates as “fly naked”. Not a great translation!

    Cars that sound rude

    Did you know that cars could sound rude? This is what happened with Honda due to the lack of professional advice in the world of translation. The car was the Honda Fitta, which was launched in Sweden, Norway and Denmark in 2001. In these countries the word Fitta is slang for female genitalia. To make things worse, the striking slogan accompanying the advertising campaign for the car was: “Big on the inside, small on the outside”.

    Without a doubt, these translation mistakes have gone down in history. Since then, many brands have undoubtedly seen the point of using professional translators.


    Rocío González

    Author Rocío González

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