Monday, May 12, 2014

Bad Translations Cost Tourism Big Bucks

In France alone, bad translations cost tourism close to €120 million annually. Having lived in Ukraine for nearly ten years, there were plenty of times that going out to dinner could either be extremely entertaining because of how comical a menu item had been translated; however, I had the benefit of understanding the orignal menu be it in the Russian or Ukrainian languages. While things have improved a great deal in the last five to ten years, particularly in the larger cities, the figure noted above has nothing to do with things like menus, it is specifically about online content.

Those loses are just a drop in the bucket of France’s €18.5 Billion e-tourism industry, nonetheless, in a global economy where your clients are not necessary right next door, you want to reach out to as many of them as possible.

A study conducted by Textmaster, a professional translation agency, found that sixty-five percent of France’s e-tourism sites contained “blunders or translation errors”. Thibault Lougnon, the CEO of Textmaster notes a few more interesting figures in the short article on ths topic which was the source for the idea of this post. In short you are better getting your pages viewed in more languages and with few mistakes, then picking a few languages and doing a terrible job!

I decided to take a look at seven hotels in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and lift a sentence or two for your perusal. And you be the judge as to wether or not you would really want to deal with these hospitality services. I have left out the big international chains on purpose and targeted primarly smaller entities.

Sample texts from hotels

Phrase or sentence
Minimal Error count
Our Kiev apartments better then rooms at most of Hotels in Kiev.
Comfortable place for keeping business appointments or just pleasant chit-chat over a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Dear guests, please, please note that our hotel have new price system.
Welcome to our restaurant featuring the National and European cuisineand classic cocktails,in a warm setting, makes this comforting dining experience.
We care about our guests, therefore developed a special loyalty program, on which you can become a holder of personalized card of permanent guest.

This is far from being a meticulous study in any way, though it does illustrate a point. While I’m all for good translation, I encourage those who need copy localized for a particular language or area, that the copy be developed and written by a native speaker and someone with a good understanding of the culture of the target language. What may sound good in one language, may be culturally unacceptable in another.

A challenge to the translation agencies in Kyiv. Whic agency will take the time to conduct a study of what the lack of, or simply bad translation costs Ukraine’s tourism and e-tourism industries, and use it a tool to ensure that good translators and native speakers of other languages get paid a fair rate.


Vasyl Pawlowsky
Independent Consultant
This commentary was first published at

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