How to avoid a faux pas in a foreign language

Most politicians consult interpreting or translation services when holding a speech in a foreign language.

A mistake can easily be made.

When I worked in recruitment, one of our international managers tried to say that he was feeling hot. It was indeed a very warm summer’s day. He said in front of all his business partners in German: “Ich bin heiß.”

The translation in English would be: “I am on heat.” There was a poignant silence after this announcement.

However, there is one example in German history, when a mistake in the target language was taken humorously.

John F. Kennedy addressing the people living in Berlin during the cold war era

Ich bin ein Berliner.

German translation: I am a doughnut.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

John F. Kennedy won over the sympathies of the German people despite his faux pas. Everybody knew, what he wanted to say.

I am one of you.

A good speech can make all the difference. Prince Charles was well received in Germany on his latest visit, because his speech was in perfect German.

at a remembrance ceremony in Berlin

The German nation was very much impressed. He was very brave to speak in front of the parliament and the cameras.

Getting it right, can have a huge impact. Getting it wrong, can damage your business’ reputation.

You can avoid a major faux pas by consulting translation services beforehand.

Published by Maria

Translation and interpreting services, Supply teaching in Havering, Thurrock and Essex, Author

3 thoughts on “How to avoid a faux pas in a foreign language

  1. Den “schoensten” Klops dieser Art habe ich mir ganz zu Anfang meines Referendarjahrs geleistet. Damals ging es irgendwie um Werbung, und ich wollte der Klasse sagen, sie sollten sich mal vorstellen, ein Unternehmer zu sein. Damals war mein Englisch noch ziemlich duerftig, und ich habe “Unternehmer” ganz woertlich uebersetzt, eben als “Undertaker”. Die Schueler haben den Klops uebrigens gar nicht bemerkt. Aber ich finde es im Nachhinein immer noch lustig, von der Werbung eines Beerdigungsunternehmers zu reden.
    In unserer Jugend haben wir mal den Spruch gehabt, “Praktisch denken, Saerge schenken!” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Und manche dieser Fehler sind ja echt lustig! Noch ein – aber bewusster – Klops aus meinem Referendarjahr. Damals war im Kollegium das sogenannte “Luebke-Englisch” sehr beliebt, und nach der Pause rief ein Kollege – ein Neuseelaender uebrigens und damit ein “native Speaker” – einem anderen hinterher, “Bring them boys what by!”

        Liked by 1 person

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