Interpretation Mistakes with Huge Consequences

Nowadays globalization has a significant impact on economic growth. Small companies and corporations need multilingual employees who can help expand the business into the international market, negotiate with business partners and win them over! Language is the key to the global market. It helps to understand and communicate with your foreign clients. According to Lighthouse, the tactic of speaking your customer’s language leads to international marketing success.

So, if you want to prepare your company for the future, improving your employees’ foreign language comprehension is a must. History shows us that language misunderstandings can cause a lot of serious consequences.

For instance, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a result of the worst translation mistake in history. In 1945 Japanese Prime Minister, Kantaro Suzuki didn’t want to respond to the Americans’ provocation and said only one word – ‘mokusatsu.’ The premier intended it to mean “no comment.” However, it was mistranslated as “to kill with silence.” This error caused the deaths of 100,000 people.

interpretation mistakes

Another horrible mistake was made during the Cold War at the International Conference in Moscow. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev declared that the Soviet Union would bury everyone. Can you imagine the faces of the international politicians once they heard it? The truth was that this legendary line was nothing but mistranslation. The Soviet premier said “Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in.’ It wasn’t the most friendly thing that one could say at an international meeting. But the interpreter should have understood that it was an ideological slogan, not a threat.

There is one good Arab proverb. It says: ‘Learn the language, and you will avoid the war.’ In the era of globalization, we need to build bridges, not to ruin them.

If you want to learn more about interpretation errors, check the infographic below:


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