Incorrect printed translations on labels

Have any of you experienced a moment where you are shopping for instance in a grocery store, and you find a product that has translations in multiple languages, and under at least a language have seen notable mistakes in grammar and/or word choice?

This is what I mean: examples of very bad translations in international business

If so, please describe to me in detail your experience because I am very fascinated to know.

It is fairly common and embarrassing for the manufacturers. English to Spanish translations in the US generally suck; with a quick 10 second skin of a paragraph I can usually find a few errors. I was reading a well known Medical Spanish book and was dismayed when I saw that they got the genders wrong for two words! Unacceptable, especially for something that should have been edited by a native. (The writer was an American physician that spoke Spanish)

At an asian restaurant I was reading the food label for a sauce and it had a basic mistake.

A translation for a thermostat is in Spanish and it was translated “directly” from English. I.E, it was intelligible but not how a native or advanced speaker would say it.

My Chilean friend says that he thinks that the US government has Mexican-Americans translate things for government offices like the Secretary of State. These people will speak very well but not necessarily know the grammar like Spanish speakers born abroad.

Recently I listened to a podcast about translations of menu cards. The funniest on was a dish called “Zwiebel ruft an”.
“Zwiebel” is the german word for “onion”. “Ruft an” means “to make a phone call”.

Can you guess what the dish was?

It was “Onion rings”.

I had a good laugh. I had almost to stop the car because I was barely able to drive it. I thought, a dish with greetings from Google translate.

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Wow, that’s wonderful Vera!

Though I must say one needs quite some knowledge of German to go from “anrufen” to “…ruft an” to “Zwiebel ruft an”.

It’s obviously not a literal translation and certainly not something one could find in a dictionary.

The dish is not quite a simple greeting from Google translate.

Google translate throws out:


Playing around with Google, it is very hard to get any translation which leads to “…ruft an”.

Maria, Google translate has improved a lot in the last years. I remember I got silly translations too in the past. It is possible that you got this translation in the past.

If you search for “ring” in Google translate, they offer you a lot of alternative translations, including “anrufen”:


Ring: ring, circle, ferrule, cycle
Kranz: wreath, rim, garland, circle, chaplet
Klingelzeichen: ring
Manege: ring, arena
Arena: arena, ring
Rand: edge, rim, margin, brim, side, periphery
Ringel: ring, ringlet
Kringel: curl, squiggle, ring, wreath, whorl
Gruppe: group, category, team, party, class, band
Feld: field, panel, area, array, court, pitch


klingeln: ring, ping, jingle, tinkle, pink
anrufen: call, phone, telephone, ring, appeal to, call up
läuten: ring, toll, peal
klingen: sound, ring, clink, tinkle, clang
schellen: ring


My point is that “anrufen” in your example has been broken down to “ruft an.”

Google will sometimes produce “…ruft an” but it is still a rather rare occurrence.

The dish is obviously not a literal translation, nor indeed an obvious one for Google by any means.