LunaTik Ill Traducted in The Réal

Last week, at long last, I received my LunaTik: it’s a gadget that lets you wear an iPod nano as a watch.

The LunaTik is a great success story that has been told numerous times: in short, they needed $15,000 to get started, used Kickstarter and ended up with $941,718 pledged from more than 13,000 people — the most successful Kickstarter project of all time.

Before them, there were many other attempts to make a wrist band for the Nano, but none approached the same level of success; part of it is due to marketing, and esp. a brilliant video and all those blog posts, but the core of their success really lies in execution: the thing is perfect. Sturdy, and beautiful.

Perfection Alas! is not from this world, of course, and when I received the LunaTik I noticed a little problem.

The packaging displays instructions in English, French and Spanish; the French translation seems to have been made using some automated software that knows neither French nor English. Here’s an example:

  • original English sentence: “Multi-Touch Watch Band Assembly”
  • their “French” version: “L'Assemblée pour Multi-touchent le bracelet de montre”
  • their version, translated back to English: “The congress for Multi are touching the watch band”. (Yes, it’s a plural “are”, because “touchent” is plural. But the whole sentence is completely nonsensical anyway).
  • what they meant to say: “Schéma de montage du bracelet”

I sent an email to Minimal telling them exactly that, and they responded kindly that they would address the problem in the future.

I appreciate that they took the time to read and answer my email, and they’re obviously dedicated and nice people. But the damage is done: and my point is that this is simply rude. It sends the exact opposite of the message the brand is trying to convey. It says “I don’t care”. Translation is admittedly a trivial matter; but if they don’t care about it, one wonders what else they didn't care about.

The American Translators Association has put together a short document called“Translations: getting it right” (PDF) ; in contains many insights such as these:

  • In many cultures, awkward or sloppy use of the local language — especially by a native English speaker — is not amusing. It is insulting.
  • Professional translators work into their native language; if you want your catalog translated into German and Russian, the work will be done by a native German speaker and an native Russian speaker. As a translation buyer, you may not be aware of this, but a translator who flouts this basic rule is likely to be ignorant of other important quality issues as well.

In the end I’m very happy with the LunaTik and quite grateful to the Minimal people to having built it; but I would be even happier if they had cared enough not to take a shortcut on translation.

Tue, 15 Feb 2011 • permalink