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The Culture Vulture

The Culture Vulture flaps around the globe keeping his hungry eyes on all the news relating to Cultural Awareness, Intercultural Communication, Cultural Competence, Translation, Languages & Multilingualism, Interpreting, Localization, GILT, Business Training and Design.

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McDonald's Billboard Lost in Translation

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McDonald's have managed to make a mess of their latest effort to target ethnic minorities in the USA with a billboard advertisement that means nothing.

McDonald's have had to apologise to the Hmong community of St Paul, Minnesota, USA after managing to produce an advertisement containing jibberish. Attempting to target the ethnic community they ended up with a billboard of jumbled letters and missing line breaks with left the ad meaningless.

Rather than read 'Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going', the advert reads 'Yuavtxhawbpabraukojsawv yuavntxivzograukoj mus', which even to an English speaker looks wrong.

'We strive to reach our guests in relevant ways including the use of in-language messaging,' said McDonald's Midwest Region's marketing director, Gregg Miskiel. 'While it was our intention to create a special message for our Hmong population in Minnesota, we now realize that an error was made in the translation.'

The company's local advertising agency is now working  to correct the billboards.

The embarrasing mistake is another example of how important it is to make sure a professional job is done when translating anything that will appear in the public arena. Whether its an advert, a sign, a website or instructions, companies must ensure translations (and final artwork) is always proofread and checked over by native speakers from the country/region/language.

For more examples of marketing blunders check out the video Top 10 International Marketing Blunders.
The Culture Vulture moved from Africa to work for Kwintessential back in 2007. His job is to fly around, keeping an eye on news, making sure you keep up-to-date with developments in the world of language, culture, localization and international business.