News | 22.09.2012

McDonald's: Lost in translation

For a minority community in St. Paul (Minnesota), McDonald’s decided to translate their marketing material into the Hmong language. Unfortunately, it appears no native Hmong speakers read the advertisement prior to publication. After printing it transpired that the translation wasn’t correct. There were no spaces between the different words “Yuavtxhawbpabraukojsawv yuavntxivzograukoj ism”. This issue was only flagged up when native speakers reading the published ad, noticed the error.

McDonald’s message to stop by for morning coffee and breakfast most likely got  lost during the DTP process.

Meanwhile, the group has publicly apologized and pulled the ad from circulation. Gregg Miskiel, McDonald’s marketing director in the Mid-West region acknowledged that they wanted to create marketing material specifically for the Hmong community in Minnesota. They now realize that the translation is full of mistakes. A corrected version of the ad will appear in the next few days.

Hmong is an Asian language that comes from the Miao family of languages. It is spoken mainly in parts of China, Vietnam and Thailand. A minority of approximately 200,000 Hmong speakers live in the US.

Whenever translations or foreign language documents are printed, it is advisable to arrange a native speaker to proofread the print-ready file again to ensure that errors are, as in the example above, discovered and corrected in time.


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