Translation and clothing

I can’t ignore bad translations. I can tolerate them, but I can’t ignore them.

While I was living in Spain, I saw many items of clothing which had English slogans splashed across them. Unfortunately, more often than not it was clear the design department hadn’t bothered to run the text past a native speaker.

I started to take photos of the things I saw in and around Valencia. To reassure myself I hadn’t imagined them.

For example:


Eh?!?! “Walk the way where your dreams brights”? There are so many things wrong with this sentence I don’t know where to begin. So I won’t. Instead I would suggest they were going for, “Walk the path lit by your dreams”. I might be aiming too high though. Hmn.

I’m not claiming this is a problem exclusive to English or Spain. I imagine there are many Brits walking round with slogans in French that make natives sneer. And there are numerous tales of people getting Chinese characters tattoos only to discover they mean something far less lofty than they had imagined. Don’t believe me? Our friends at Buzzfeed have 34 examples for you.

Here’s another example:


The error is a preposition. It’s only small. But it undermines the whole statement (and fashion statement). I can imagine the scene. A pair of young lovers have reached an impasse in their relationship. She holds him close, gazes up at him through her long, black lashes and says, “Love me or leave me at London!” He blinks, grasps both her hands and, frowning, replies, “Er, sorry, do you mean “in”? “IN” London? Right?” Another beautiful moment ruined by bad grammar.

I liked this one:

Carrefour clothing 2

Happy all the time. Always happy. Do you know, I’d even have let “All the time [singular] … happy” pass.

And finally, my favourite. It’s not on clothing, but it is related.

Knitting pjs 01_10_12

I think they mean “Knitted” pyjamas. But I love the idea of having a pair of pyjamas to wear only when you are going to knit something. Wouldn’t that be great?

Have you seen any examples like these? Or examples in other languages? Let me know!


Postscript: A bit more about translation and me

In case you’re wondering I translate from Spanish to English. My first degree was in English Language and Literature from Oxford University. I learnt/ed (you choose) Spanish as a graduate and went on to get a Postgraduate Certificate in Translation Skills (Spanish-English) from City University, London. After a few more years’ practical experience, I did my Master’s degree in “Traducción Institutional” at Alicante University, Spain. I have now been translating for 8 years and still learn something with every commission.

© Claire Huston / Art and Soul

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s