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IBM and Nike's Back Translation Problems

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IBM’s first Japanese translation of its “Solution for a small planet” advertising message yielded “Answers that make people smaller.” The error was caught and corrected. Nevertheless, unintended meanings still occur in the most unlikely situations.

Just ask the logo designers for a line of Nike athletic shoes. The designers intended to portray “air” with stylized flames on the shoe heel. Unfortunately, the logo inadvertently resembled the Arabic script for the word “Allah,” the Arabic word for God. After receiving complaints from Muslim leaders, Nike apologized and withdrew the offending shoes from the market.

Companies can learn from these examples and use back translation to mitigate business risks (instead of just one directional), where a translated word or phrase is retranslated into the original language by a different interpreter to catch errors.

Having said this, I am now concerned about Google Translator Tool.

Cite this as:

YouSigma. (2008). "IBM and Nike's Back Translation Problems." From http://www.yousigma.com.

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