Translation: Funny Mistakes

We have all made mistakes when writing a foreign language. A common mistake is to translate directly, word by word, a sentence from one language to another. But as one word may have several meanings, there is bound to be trouble. The clue is to know your way around the dictionary.

Even professional translators make mistakes from time to time. The following examples are translations made by professional translators for TV and film. You will soon discover that there is something wrong with all of them.

Exercise mistakes

a) Read the quotes carefully and, with the help of your dictionary, find the correct translations of the sentences.
b) List the different meanings your dictionary gives for the word or phrase that is translated wrongly.


Translation - are you better than the pros?

“You must leave your iron outside.” (Back to the Future III)
“Legg igjen strykejernet ditt på utsiden.”

“Only child, were you?” (Friends)
“Du var bare barnet, du?”

“He’s got a nice bum.” (Interview with Cindy Lauper)
“Han er en likandes bamse.”

“If you don’t co-operate, you’ll be eight feet under.” (LA Law)
“Dersom du ikke samarbeider, blir du dverg.”

“It must belong to the Super” (NYPD Blue)
“Det tilhører nok supermarkedet.”

“Do you like my pigtail?” (The Rock)
“Liker du min griserompe?”

“Aren’t you a little bit short to be a Stormtrooper?” (Star Wars)
“Har du sluppet opp for stormtropper?”

“There is nothing left.” (The Streets of San Fransisco)
“Det er ingen ting til venstre.”

“I’m exiting the car.” (The Wedding Singer)
“Jeg blir opphisset i bilen.”