Translation scammers beware

There are scams out there for everything, from pyramid schemes to websites promising to show you how to earn millions online. But there are also less evident scams targetting very specific communities of professionals, and translators happen to be a prime example.

I has never been quite clear to me what the aim of such scams really is apart from to waste your time, unless at some point they ask you to send money first in order to receive payment or some such nonsense, but the truth is that freelance translators will routinely receive bizarre, somewhat suspicious emails requiring a very basic translation service.

At times it’s not quite clear for a little while whether you’re dealing with a genuine client or not so you exchange a few emails to see where it gets you. Eventually you just let it go or end your emailing with a curt comment about scammers wasting your time. Then again, if you’re a little more inventive, you may engage in a lengthy and nonsensical conversation about Klingon>Dothraki translation just to wear the other guy down.

This was a genuine scam email I received not long ago, I googled the message to see what the internet came up with and found this gem:

From: mata taylor
To: Diana Arbiser
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

Hello, I am Mata Taylor, I got your e mail address from a online forum that you are an excellent translator, I guess you would have worked for them. I will like you to translate an article for me, but first i need to know your language combination because it was not stated. I will be very happy if you can reply my e mail ASAP.

Thank You

——————————————————————————————

From: Diana Arbiser
To: mata taylor
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

My language pair is Klingon > Dothraki.

——————————————————————————————

From: mata taylor
To: Diana Arbiser
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

Thank You very much for the reply, that is the language combination i was looking for. I have attached the document to you, i want it to be translated into Dothraki. Please let me know the total cost of translating the article

Thank You.

——————————————————————————————

From: Diana Arbiser
To: mata taylor
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 2:37 AM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

Dear Ms./Mr. Taylor,

The document you submitted is not written in Klingon but in what appears to be English. In order for me to translate it from Klingon>Dothraki, I would first need an English>Klingon translation. Do you think you could provide that? Otherwise, I can suggest a local translator who works in that language pair. His fees are US$1,230 (one thousand two hundred and thirty US Dollars) per word.

Once he completes the English>Klingon translation, I could then proceed to do the Klingon>Dothraki translation that you request. My fees are €279.70 (two hundred and seventy nine Euros with 70 cents) per word. Needless to say, you should add the applicable VAT, which can range from 6% to 21%, depending on the answer that you get after completing the “What Planet of the Galactic Empire Should You Live in?” questionnaire. You can find it, together with other equally amusing questionnaires, in Facebook. Or Twitter– I’m not quite sure here.

Please, let me know if these fees are agreeable, and also what’s your deadline.

Sincerely,

Tyrion Lannister

——————————————————————————————

From:  mata taylor
To: Diana Arbiser
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 19:10 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

Please can i know the total in dollars

——————————————————————————————

From: Diana Arbiser
To: mata taylor
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 7:44 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

US$ 1,369,440.73 + tax. But paid in Euros.

T. L.

From: mata taylor <matataylor000@gmail.com>
To: Diana Arbiser <dianarbiser@yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 7:45 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

Thank You very much for the reply, I am pleased with your price, Payment will be made by check, i will need your full name and address so i can issue out your payment.

Thank You

——————————————————————————————

From: Diana Arbiser
To: mata taylor
Sent: Friday, June 28, 2014 5:14 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

My name, as I have already mentioned, is Tyrion Lannister
My temporary address is: 31415 The Shire, Xyzzy, Alderan
Postal Code: Y0ur455h013

You didn’t clarify your deadline for this job. Translating Klingon to Dothraki is pretty exhausting, and I estimate it could take me as much as a cosmological decade, give or take. Would that be acceptable?

Thanks.

P.S. Please, make sure the check is in Euros, as I requested before.

T.L

——————————————————————————————

From: mata taylor <matataylor000@gmail.com>
To: Diana Arbiser <dianarbiser@yahoo.com>
Sent: Friday, June 27, 2014 10:35 PM
Subject: Re: Translator Needed ASAP

LOL

Mama, die die die…

Walk into a Dutch supermarket and you might just see this worrying sight:

mama die

It doesn’t help that the words “Mama, die, die, die…” are set next to the image of a slightly angry-looking child, but this ad didn’t particularly phase the Dutch, only the unfortunate anglophiles who come across it. In its original language it is of course far less sinister, being a child’s request for her mother to buy her “that and that and that” (form what I’ve been told, I don’t speak Dutch).

Not exactly a terrible translation, rather an unfortunate cross-language homograph, but a clear example of what can happen when the advertising world doesn’t consider multilingualism. It’s worse, of course, when you’re trying to sell your product to a global market, but you fail to realise that your lovely new car, the Chevrolet Nova, translates to Spanish buyers as the Chevrolet “Doesn’t run”.

There are others of course, like Nokia’s Lumia phone which translates to a slang word for ‘prostitute’ in Spanish, ‘Gerber’ baby food means ‘to throw up’ in French; and Microsoft’s ‘Bing’ which is a homophone for ‘illness’ in China.  And those are the less rude ones. Check out some more amusing and unfortunate brand translations here.

Suing over an umlaut

How would you feel if you knew that Häagen-Dazs was not a Scandinavian product? Sorry to shatter your illusions dear readers, but Häagen-Dazs ice-cream was made in the Bronx by a Polish immigrant who wanted a Danish-sounding name for his new recipe. The legend goes that as a tribute to Denmark’s exemplary treatment of its Jews during the Second World War and its yummy dairy products, Reuben Mattus sat at his New York kitchen table for hours, saying nonsensical words until he came up with a “Danish-sounding” combination he liked to promote his frozen cream.

As it turns out, not only is Häagen-Dazs not composed of any Danish words, “äa” and “zs” are not spellings native to any Scandinavian language. A bit of linguistic deception you might think, either that or a piece of very clever branding which has clearly worked well. In any case, Häagen-Dazs certainly seemed to think that they now owned “Scandanavian-sounding things” as well as the umlaut apparently, as that is exactly what they sued the new ice-cream company Früsen-Gladjé over in 1980. Forget that Früsen-Gladjé are actually real words meaning ‘frozen joy’ in Swedish, and that an umlaut over the ‘u’ is the way this word is spelled in a real language.

Häagen-Dazs also sued Früsen-Gladjé  over a number of other points including the use of a map of a European country on the packaging (albeit not the same country), giving instructions on how to eat the product (leave to melt slightly first) and pretending to be European (apparently this is a trademark infringement in America). You’ll be happy to know that the court refused to extend Häagen-Dazs protection to its Scandinavian marketing theme, finding that the difference in the trade dress of the two products was apparent “to all but the most obtuse consumer.” And so the umlaut lives on to be used for marketing purposes another day.

Happily for Häagen-Dazs, they found someone else to sue later on: a Chinese company claiming to sell clothes under the name ‘Haager Dasz’. And this time they won. Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream also recently got into a legal battle over trademark infringement, but it wasn’t with another ice-cream company. I won’t go into details here, suffice to say that ‘Ben & Cherry’s Boston Cream Thigh’ was being marketed to another consumer base altogether.

‘Gunna’ not ‘gunman’

What happens when you cross a paranoid population with lousy auto-correct? A surprise police lock-down of your school of course! At least that’s what happened last year in a school in Georgia (the State not the country) when a student there had the bad luck of sending a message which read ‘gunman be at west hall today’ to the wrong person.

What he meant was ‘gunna‘ which must be an American spelling of ‘gonna‘.

What happened was that an alert was raised and the school put under lock-down until further police investigation traced the source of the message.

Luckily for the student, the police believed his story and he did not end up in Guantanamo. The incident was merely described by police as a combination of odd circumstances‘.

Indeed.

Let it be a lesson to us all on the perils of auto-correct.