Lindsay does...Translation Mistakes |

Lindsay does…Translation Mistakes

Today we are lucky enough to welcome a guest post from Lindsay. She’s a true language lover and a passionate traveller. Make sure to check out her blog – LindsayDoesLanguages, it’s packed with great posts about language learning and travelling! Now,without further ado, here’s Lindsay’s post, enjoy!


Oops. We’ve all seen something on holiday that has made us chuckle, and I’m not talking about that person who stole your spot on the beach and is now a nice shade of pink. Sometimes it’s a mistranslation, sometimes it’s just something that makes you tilt your head in curiosity. Either way, wherever you are in the world, there’s something lost in translation somewhere just waiting to be found and brighten up your day. The team here at Language Reach have previously written about some translation mistakes that caused a big issue. But today, I want to share some of my personal favourites of interestingly translated signs from my travels in China and Japan.



This one is a purely innocent mistranslation. Still makes me smile. The worrying thing is that the more I look at it, the more it makes sense.


funny translation mistake

Any idea? Me neither. It’s a Muslim restaurant…do you serve yourself?…I have no clue.



I love this one because you can just imagine the conversation “We need a warning of ventilating sign. There’s going to be some pretty hefty ventilation going on here. Better put it on a sign. Did you get that? Warning of ventilating.” And so ‘warning ovntilating’ was born. That story is from my brain, I don’t think that’s true. But it’s a little like the Spanish llama story. Too good to let go.

Also, I’m pretty sure this sign was outside of a toilet. So there’s that.



I saw this sign a few times in China and it made me smile every time. Not so much a mistranslation, just a funny image in my head that made me want to stride over whatever barrier was in my way each time.


funny translations

I can flap my arms, I can flap my legs, I can flap my wings…well, if I had wings that is. But glass? I’m not so sure.



This one is from Tokyo. I never did understand if it’s for people who can’t get home one night or for people who suffer from genuine stress and anxiety caused by commuting. Any ideas? Either way, quite a caring concept, don’t you think?


What does it all mean?

Of course, it’s very easy, especially on the internet to mock and criticise bad translations or confusing signs from different countries. However, we have to remember that whoever made that menu, that road sign, or that billboard has tried to communicate in another language. They’ve made the effort to do so and that’s definitely not worthy of criticism. These examples may make us smile, laugh, or even frown with confusion, but it’s part of the beauty of language. We all have the right to attempt to communicate in any language, and if we make mistakes, which inevitably, we probably will, we can just brush it off and try again.


I hope you enjoyed this little insight into my favourite signs abroad. What’s your favourite sign you’ve seen abroad? Share in our Social Media comments!