The cultural and linguistic nuances are the common pitfalls during localization. The good-adapted product requires tons of attention to recheck and prevent all possible mistakes. And all these thoughts feel natural. All people involved in localization understand that attentive proofreading and deep contextual adaptation are necessary for a good result, but it is not always possible to avoid mistakes in practice.

The idea for this article was born in an Asian food restaurant where our team had lunch. All the menus in the restaurant had bad and inconsistent translations - nobody double-checked the text before printing. As a result, the ordered "Fired Duck" (which sounded really intriguing) became just ordinary "Fried Duck."

fired duck

The next case happened near the ATM in Brussels. German buttons displayed the wrong word, which was confusing. Instead of "abheben" (to withdraw), the button said, "abnehmen" (to lose weight).

The cases above emphasize the importance of quality testing for businesses with close customer interaction, so after these situations, we decided to check how localization can affect success. Let's dive into the five famous examples of localization failures.

"Don't bring our ancestors back from the grave!"

The Chinese language has always been a challenge for localization. And Pepsi, in the last century, made a translation mistake. Their slogan - "Come alive! You're in the Pepsi generation," targeted to attract the new generation, was translated as "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave" in China. The small nuances of the language led to the wrong meaning of the entire phrase and, as a result, the company's downfall in the market.

pepsi case

"What are you selling us?"

The current case is about the well-known IKEA. As we already mentioned, e-commerce is a sensitive area where companies should consider all minor things. When IKEA opened a new store in Thailand ten years ago, they didn't check the naming of the goods.

As a result, some Swedish words like "Redalen" provided a texttactless meaning. To fix the situation, IKEA hired Thai translators and rechecked all product names to keep the Norwegian style as much as possible but avoid issues.

"Blame it on the stork"

Like the previous examples, this one also pertains to East culture and language. Actually, Eastern countries are a big localization challenge not only because of the translation difficulties but also cultural misunderstandings. In such a trap was caught the Procter and Gamble Co.

At the end of the 20th century, Pampers became popular goods on the market. The USA advertisement was excellent - the stork brings a child to the family - an idyllic picture. When it came to Japan, the audience was discouraged. Why did the stork bring a child? What does this mean? The fact is that in Japanese folklore, newborns arrive courtesy of a giant peach floating in the river.

This mistake was discovered when P&G researched why sales were slumping. The company did its "homework" to fix the issue but lost time, and Japanese competitors successfully captured the niche. P&G spent a few years climbing to the top of the market.

stork and baby

"The ‘embarrassing’ pen"

There are just brands in the world, but there are legends that everybody knows. Such an example is the well-known Parker Pen. But this famous brand also produced a failure with the translation. In the 1930th, the company expanded to Mexico and unsuccessfully translated its slogan into Spanish.

The reason is that the similar-sounding words "embarrass" and "embaraza" were mistakenly assumed to have the same meaning. However, "embaraza" actually means "impregnate" in Spanish. "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you" was translated to "It won't leak in your pocket and impregnate you."


"Car to die"

Mercedes Benz tried to enter the Chinese market by changing its brand name to Bensi, hoping it would be more relatable to the Chinese people. However, they were unaware that "Bensi" translates to "Rush to Die" in Chinese. So, they changed the name to "Benchi," which means "dashing speed."


The examples above demonstrate that even large companies with extensive teams working on market expansion can experience failure in localization.

How can Lingohub support localization?

At Lingohub, we strive to provide our customers with the best tools to simplify the localization. The automated processes allow our customers to focus more on the localization nuances than on manual tasks and checking minor things. Let's overview some of the features:

  1. Automated files import/export. If you have a middle-size+ project, you have a lot of texts that should be adapted. If you ignore translation management software, your developers will manually export files from the repository, send them to the team, and import them back. In case of any issue with files, the iteration is recurring. Lingohub supports smooth integration with all popular repositories like GitHub, Gitlab, etc. All the changes in source files are tracked automatically, meaning your team does not need to ping other team members or wait for any response. Moreover, your team feels free to work with separate branches to keep the project versions clean.
  1. Quality checks. Blurred vision often is a reason for simple mistakes in the project. The entire team can check the text a few times, but you will still find the error in the prod after release. To help our clients with content checking, Lingohub developed quality checks. This feature aims to fix issues like duplicated or missed placeholders, additional spaces, term usage, and more. Thus localization managers can pay more attention to the essence of the text without rechecking simple things.
quality check
  1. REST API. With Lingohub, you can use both HTTP and Token authentication. Our API makes it easy to integrate Lingohub into your development processes or quickly check project status without logging in. Simply select the best option for you, manage and switch it effortlessly in your account, and establish the solution that meets your needs.
rest API
  1. Hire proofreaders just inside the application. Finding the best translators is challenging, especially for rare languages or dialects. Lingohub provides translators and proofreaders for more than 40 languages, including Japanese, Chinese (with dialects), etc. You can order the translation and/or the proofreading of some content to ensure the final result is perfect.
hire translators


Localization is a complex process, and failure can happen to anyone. Even big enterprises have missed the cultural or translation context somehow. However, you can utilize a translation management platform to prevent and reduce issues, making the process much simpler.

The automation features, CAT tools, and robust engines will speed up the process and take the quality to the next level. If you want more information - schedule a demo call with our team or try all Lingohub benefits with a 14-day free trial.

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