Accurately translating books from one language to another can be quite tricky and incorrectly translated books can interpret completely different, and sometimes amusing meanings. This is why professional translations services are undeniably important when properly translating a book to avoid misinterpretations and misleading context. However, even some professionals can get it wrong from time to time and therefore, ensuring that the translation service you opt for has a team of dedicated native speakers would be the best way to get an accurate translation.

While the same word can have several different meanings when translated, there are so many other variables involved in book translations as well that it is no wonder there are so many misleading book translations. Out of all the numerous badly translated book titles out there, we have put together a list of our favourite and most amusing, purely for your entertainment.

#1. The Horse Whisperer

This Nicholas Evans novel is quite well-known, selling well over 15 million copies since it was published in 1995, rated 10th bestselling novel in this year. Unfortunately, some translations of this top-rated novel are not exactly accurate, the French translation “L’Homme qui murmurait a’ l’oreille des chevaux” literally means “The man who murmured into horses’ ears. Even though this title may be somewhat tricky to accurately translate, this book is really not about a man muttering softly into the ears of horses’ and therefore, this is undeniably an amusingly misleading translation.

#2. The Grapes of Wrath

Even though there is no real proof that the Japanese translation of this book was actually published and sold in Japan, we found the translated title amusing enough to list. This American realists novel was written by John Steinbeck and it was published in 1939 and impressively won the National Book award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Hilariously, the hilarious Japanese translation reads “The Angry Raisins” which can only imply what the translated content of the novel must read. However, there is an accurately translated version of this novel that did get the title right in Japanese.

#3. Catch-22

This satirical novel was written by Joseph Heller and published in 1961. While the English definition of the title of this book describes a dilemma or a difficult situation to get out of, much like the story related in the book, the Italians thought “Paragraph 22” would be an ideal translation of the title. Unfortunately, Paragraph 22 is quite far from an accurate translation and does not suggest that the book is about a difficult situation.

#4. Bridge to Terabithia

This children’s literature book is about two children who create an imaginary magic forest kingdom to escape their loneliness. Written by Katherine Paterson and published in 1977 by Thomas Crowell, it went on to win a Newbury Medal. Oddly enough, the Hungarians translation of this novel is completely misleading opting for “Bridge to the Afterlife”. While the original title explains a magical imaginary land for children, the Hungarian title makes it seem like quite a scary book!

#5. Brave New World

Aldous Huxley wrote this dystopian novel in 1931 and it was published the following year in 1932. Even though this is a fiction novel, the French translation makes it seem even more fictional by translating the title to “The Best of All Worlds”, proving that sarcasm and even irony are not so easy to translate from one language to another. The title of this book is intended to draw irony from the main character, John the Savage, and the French translation doesn't accurately transfer this, unfortunately.

The Negative Effect of Misleading Book Translations

Even though most of the badly translated books can be quite funny, misleading translations of books can often put a reader off. Aside from the amusing titles that miss the authours point entirely, badly translated books will completely fail to interpret the context and ideas and can even seem somewhat mocking. When taking into account that translating languages is not always easy, it is quite understandable how so many books have been given completely different meanings when translated. This is why native speaking translators would generally have the best capabilities when translating novels as accurately as possible.

Published by Umar Bajwa