Language focus | 23.08.2009

Jargon Loving Brits Find Themselves Lost In Translation

Thinking outside the box may impress your boss, but our much-loved business jargon is not faring well on foreign shores.

With UK exports on the increase, research has shown that Brits doing business abroad need to be straight talking to stay on top of the game – as our jargon laden lingo can be seriously lost in translation.

We like to push the envelope with our blue sky thinking; but these UK-office favourites are easily misinterpreted by non-English speakers resulting in some baffling translations that sound more loop-the-loop, than in the loop.

We at The Translation People, put some of the most commonly heard business phrases through their paces using one of the free online translation tools, whilst our team of language specialists identified just how far off the mark the machine-generated translation results were. Here are the top five phrases:

  1. ‘Give to me the diagram of the baseball stadium’ (Russian) – aka Give me a ball park figure
  2. ‘We will strike the earth operation’ (Spanish) – aka We’ll hit the ground running
  3. We to need to obtain our duck continuously’ (Chinese) – aka We need to get our ducks in a row
  4. ‘Mark it above by me’ (German) – aka Flag it up with me
  5. ‘We think apart from the box’ (French) – aka We’re thinking outside the box

Steve Wilde, Managing Director of The Translation People, said: “Our export market is worth over £200bn and this figure is set to rise; with many British businesses taking advantage of the competitive rate of the pound and targeting overseas trade. But there’s no room for error in this challenging market and aspiring exporters need to cut out the business babble if they want to succeed.

“Jargon seems to be a prerequisite of British office culture, but it’s important to remember that although we may be singing from the same hymn sheet here in the UK, our business lingo does not fare well against the language barrier.

“Our team of specialists, who provide translations in more than 100 languages, investigated how some of the most commonly used business phrases could be interpreted – revealing some comical results and proving that straight talking is always best if you want to avoid getting lost in translation.”

Businesses looking to target overseas markets can find out more about overcoming language and cultural barriers by contacting The Translation People.


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