Whorf, B. (2012). Language, Thought and Reality - Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Second edition. Science and Linguistics, p. 271. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Watzlawick, P., Beavin Bavelas, J., Jackson, D. D. (1967). Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies and Paradoxes. Ch. 1: The Frame of Reference. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. (2011).
Translation means t r a n s c u l t u r a l w r i t i n g ...
... and is probably one of the most widely misunderstood jobs in the world.
In the layman's world
To most non specialists, however — and to some "translators", unfortunately — translation is a simple matter of replacing one word with another. This is where the trouble begins. This is how literal and non native translations proliferate, sometimes leading to unexpected — and potentially very costly — blunders.
For example, when Ford launched the Pinto in Brazil in 1971, sales went nowhere. As it turned out after further investigation, "pinto" was slang for... "tiny male genitals" in Brazil. So "Pinto" was adapted to "Corcel", and suddenly everybody was happy. "Corcel" means "horse". And just that made a huge difference.
There is no need to go back as far as 1971 to find such blunders, though. Have you heard about the Audi e-tron® series? Well, what the Audi (French?) communication team did not hear of, apparently, is the French meaning of "étron" (pick your favourite: it means either "turd" or "despicable person"). Let's wait and see how the car sells in French speaking countries. It would be such a pity to see all this R&D work go down the toilet.
How fortunate that electric cars are still a niche market. That should make the lost opportunities much more bearable. Still, for H1 2016, France was the European leader...
In the same vein, in 2011, Nokia (whose mobile phone arm was bought by Microsoft in 2014, to be then sold to HMD/Foxconn in 2016) unveiled its first-ever Windows Phones: the Lumia 800 and the Lumia 710. Unfortunately, the company realised too late that "lumia" actually means prostitute in Spanish (over 450 million native speakers, mind you). The result today? Apparently a big flop based on the Facebook and Twitter pages that nokialumia.es links to ("nokialumia", which sounds like "nokiawhore" to Spanish natives). One might of course argue that marketing does present some commonalities with whoring, but let's just put it down to a habit of uncritical puffery. Anyway, marketing is just about showing beautiful images, right? Not about true meaning. Otherwise, how could a makeup brand named Urban Decay ever be successful?
Quite ironically, puffery, when poorly adapted, can sometimes turn into ridicule... especially considering "puffery tolerance" varies greatly according to culture and audience.
Another, very current example: Budweiser's manly "King of Beers" registered tagline becomes the "Queen of Beers" in French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Hindi (non exhaustive list) because in these languages, words for beer ("bière" in French, "cerveza" in Spanish, "birra" in Italian, "cerveja" in Portuguese, "bere" in Romanian and for example "शराब", "तेज बियर" and "लागर" in Hindi) are feminine. So much for testosterone, and brand perception...
Actually, as of February 2017, another American brewer, SHE Beverage Company Inc., is targeting women with a "Queen of beer" tagline. Is it just me, ladies, or does this tagline make you think of (second rate) beauty pageants too? In French at least, that is definitely the kind of association that "La reine de la bière" will bring to mind, not to mention that "SHE" is pronounced exactly like "chie", "chies" and "chient" (inflected forms from French verb "chier" in the present tense, for singular 1st and 3rd person, singular 2nd person, and plural 3rd person), which means "to take a crap" in French. Not quite "Sexy, Hot and Erotic"...
As for baby food brand Gerber, it never sold in French-speaking countries, because "gerber" means "to puke" in French. Which is probably why you will not be able to access the Gerber website from a "French-speaking-country-IP-address".
The list goes on...
"Mr Duncombe says when recruiting staff he has been shocked at the poor quality of written English."
"James Fothergill, head of education and skills at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI): "Our recent research shows that 42% of employers are not satisfied with the basic reading and writing skills of school and college leavers."
Tie-breaker (rhetorical) question: How would you translate English expression "Pardon my French" in... French?
 Flamand, J., Qu’est-ce qu’une bonne traduction ? : « Pour atteindre son but, la traduction doit se plier à deux règles. 1. Rendre la pensée de l’auteur avec toutes ses nuances ; 2. Avoir l’aisance d’une composition originale. La seconde découle de la première, car le lecteur ne comprendra bien le texte que si la traduction se conforme à ses habitudes de pensée », Meta : journal des traducteurs / Meta: Translators' Journal, vol. 29, n° 3, 1984, p. 330-334 (Full text available here). Back to text
 Tatilon, C. (1986). Traduire : pour une pédagogie de la traduction. Toronto. Éditions du GREF. Back to text
 "Traduire [...] c'est avant tout se mettre au service de ses futurs lecteurs et fabriquer à leur intention un équivalent du texte de départ : soit, d'abord, un texte qui livre, avec le moins de distorsion possible, toute l'information contenue dans celui d'origine. Mais traduire, c'est aussi produire un texte duquel il convient d'exiger trois autres qualités : qu'il soit rendu « naturellemment » en langue d'arrivée (qu'il « ne sente pas la traduction », dit-on couramment), qu'il soit parfaitement intégré à la culture d'arrivée et qu'il parvienne, par une adroite manipulation de l'écriture, à donner l'idée la plus juste de l'originalité et des inventions stylistiques de l'auteur traduit." Back to text
 Based on initial exam taken by 2 million users so far (from 2010 to 2014). Back to text