When looking to make a brand known worldwide, companies invest time and money in trying to make their brand and philosophy known to the world, in any language necessary. Translation companies are used to receiving requests from marketing and advertising companies looking to translate and locate catching phrases in order to reach larger audiences worldwide. So, if this effort is made at a commercial level, wouldn’t it make sense to make a similar kind of investment when dealing with your own body?

Companies may destroy brand value if they fail conveying the meaning of their message as part of their localization strategy. At any rate, and despite their losses, they may get a chance to mend it. You, in turn, can leave an indelible mark that you may need to carry on forever as it is not possible to go back in time, and other solutions are not risk-free.

In other words, it is embarrassing enough to have your company’s motto or slogan poorly translated, so when it is about your own body and a phrase or thought one will have on skin for life (unlike a slogan which can be salvaged by retranslating it or reprinting the brochure), why is it that some people simply do not make the effort to double check?

When thinking about new areas for translators and translation companies to tackle, not many people turn to the tattoo industry as a source of work. This may be one of the least explored areas by translators and translation companies alike.

Plenty of sites show examples of poorly translated tattoos. Most examples come from source languages such as Hebrew, Sanskrit, Chinese and Latin into English. Some other examples are found from Russian, Portuguese and Spanish into English. Not everyone has a friend from countries where these languages are spoken – who can be of help proofing and correcting whatever misspelled phrase or poor translation may have been produced by machine translation. So, if you want to be sure the nature of that meaningful phrase you want to permanently engrave on your body is accurate, do yourself a favor and just ask for a quote from a professional and add that to your tattoo .

The Internet is full of pictures and stories from people who have had to spend twice as much on a tattoo because they have had to cover up a badly translated phrase. So, investing in a professional translation, editing or proofreading is not a bad idea. One simple example (both tragic and funny) includes a phrase that ended up saying “It swims by chance,” the original line comes from Portuguese and reads “Nada acontece por acaso,” (Nothing happens by chance) – basically, the Portuguese word “nada” (nothing), is a homonym with the third-person conjugation of “nadar” (to swim), and that is what the machine translation produced. This is just one of the many examples we can find out there. If you do not want to end up with a permanent mistake stamped on your skin, have your design checked by a language professional.

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