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Lost in Translation

Have you ever tried to learn another language and not being capable to break through the barriers of translation?

Did some of the expressions of the new language sound awkward in your mother tongue? Did you translate something literally that made your friends laugh?

Here at Spanish Millennium, we will explain you some phrases that are mostly lost in translation or not able to be translated word by word and some that are quite easy to translate.

Good and bad movie titles:

The famous Polanski movie, Rosemary’s Baby, filmed at the Dakota Building in Manhattan, was translated in Spain as “La Semilla del Diablo” (Devil’s Seed). Yes, the spoiler was already in the title as it is only revealed that Rosemary’s child is the son of the devil in the last scene. No need to spend money to watch the film when you know the end!

The original Disney Movie 101 Dalmatians was translated as “La Noche de las Narices frías” (Night of the cold Noses). Many generations that grew up since have been using that title and less “101 Dálmatas”, as it is now the official title.

Star Wars was translated as “La Guerra de las Galaxias” (War of the Galaxies) originally, but as the franchise was extended and the prequels and sequels got a little complicated, the studios decided to leave the English title and only translate the subtitle: Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith as Star Wars: Episodio III - la Venganza de los Sith.

The original Bruce Willis movie, Die Hard, was translated in Spain as “La Jungla de Cristal” (Crystall Jungle) as the building where the action happens is a skyscraper. The original title makes more sense in the approximate translation for Latin America: “Duro de Matar” (Hard to Kill).


Some cultural forms cannot be translated or are different from one language to another. For example, in the English-speaking world, the very bad day of the year is Friday the 13th. In the Spanish-speaking world, it is Tuesday the 13th. So, you will be aware of this when you talk with your friends or translate. Even though both cultures share the number 13 to bring bad luck, originally from a Norse myth and reinforced through the Bible, the day of the week is different, citing the Death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday as the reason for bringing unluck and under the Spanish calendar Tuesday the 13th, where Tuesday is the day of War God Mars>Martes.


Amazon automatic translator epic fail: it was a simple product, a straight ruler, that was translated as “heterosexual governor” (gobernante heterosexual). If only translation was so simple…

The car giant GM tried to introduce its car model Chevy Nova in the Spanish-speaking world. It was more than impossible, because Spanish-speaking people would read: no va (it doesn’t go).

Another car manufacturer, Mitsubishi, tried to sell its SUV in the Latin-American Market. Mitsubishi Pajero could not be marketed, as Pajero means masturbator in Spanish. Mitsubishi had to rename it Montero.

Translating product labels can be fun, as noticing the funny translations that result from a bad job. As the same word in English Turkey is used for the animal (pavo) and the Country (Turquía), sometimes the translation in Spanish fails totally:

source: Internet.

It reads: “hecho en pavo” made in Turkey (animal)

False friends

The word exit is very close to the Spanish word “éxito” (success), so you can successfully exit this coffee shop.

Sayings and proverbs:

Let’s go to sleep: in English, is someone is very tired, we would say that the person will sleep like a log. Thus, this is an inanimate object in English; in Spanish it will be an animate: “sleep like a marmot” (dormir como una marmota), as the small animal is believed to sleep a lot.

On The road: When we are lost and we have the certainty of finding a way to our destination, we would say that all roads lead to Rome. This early medieval saying is the same in Spanish: “Todos los caminos conducen a Roma”.

Knowledge: for the thirst of Education and wisdom, it is often said that Knowledge is no burden. In Spanish, the correspondent would be Knowledge does no take place, “el saber no ocupa lugar”.

Speed: When the situation is not a fast one, in Spanish, you will say slower than a turtle. In English, we would use slower than snail mail. On the contrary, when a situation is fast, Faster than a speeding bullet will be in Spanish faster than light: “más rápido que la luz”.

Work: Spanish, working hard like a donkey will be translated with the very same animal: “trabajar como una mula”.

Happy learning!

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