Terrible Translations in Tourism

Professional Development, Translation Practice

Every month I translate for a leading Tuscan tourism and events magazine. It’s a beautiful publication vaunting spectacular photography and top-calibre articles printed on glossy, high-grammage paper. In short, a joy to be involved in and to behold.

Sadly, tourism translation is rarely such a radiant affair. Tuscan-based hotels, farmhouse accommodation, restaurants, spa resorts and so on possess some of the most horrendous English-language texts around. As part of the research entailed in preparing the texts for the magazine, I frequently consult the websites of the featured businesses and I am—more often than not—left aghast at the appalling quality of the translations.

Even the most luxurious five- and four-star hotels, with their Egyptian cotton sheets and Carrara marble bathrooms, leave much to be desired in their communication. One such website offered the off-putting possibility of indulging in an “odoriferous cup of tea by the pool”. Or, rather anachronistically, to join the “time travelers heading to Val d’Elsa”.  One firm offering first-rate farm holidays features a “fanfair park” for the kids located in a “medow” and overlooking a “fabouluos” view of the “castel”.

Now for the number one worst translation I’ve encountered to date. A top restaurant, much lauded on Trip Advisor has the “rustic semblance of a colonic house”. For an eatery, “colonic” is surely opening up a whole different can of worms, although I’m sure that the restaurant itself is excellent.

I fear that there’s a mindset at fault here. Companies spend thousands of Euros investing in their websites and branding, then let themselves down at the last hurdle by entrusting their translations to Google Translate or, perhaps the lesser of the two evils, “my Italian friend who has lived in the States” or such like. May the uphill struggle for quality tourism translation continue!

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