Gengo translators’ funniest and strangest projects

In our last Gengo community survey, we found that one of the advantages our translators enjoy most is having the flexibility to choose the projects they can work on. Exposure to a wide variety of topics, fields and industries is a big plus, especially to newer translators who want to find their niche and full-time translators aspiring for a more diversified expertise.

To mark International Translation Day on September 30, we asked our translators about the funniest and strangest projects they’ve translated on our platform. We received a lot of interesting and hilarious-but-NSFW entries from our global community. Out of 200 anonymous responses, here are our top 12 picks:

1. Translating stories can be an immersive experience. Several of our translators report translating descriptions of games that have an unusual storyline, take place in fantasy or supernatural worlds, and use creative and fun language full of slang, figures of speech, colloquialisms, and idioms.

2. “Text for a tattoo!” A Gengo translator communicated closely with a client to make sure that their tattoo came out accurately. (No one would want a typo inked on their skin for decades, right?)

3. A kidnap note for a Ronald McDonald statue. (Need we say more?)

4. One translator recalls translating messages back and forth for an interracial LGBT couple who eventually got married. #lovewins

Image by @alixmcclurken via Twenty20

5. Warning signs that prohibit taking certain fruits and other things away from a Japanese island. (Take nothing but memories, folks!)

6. Product descriptions for aphrodisiacs. Customer satisfaction was a top priority for this shop owner, so the translator tapped into the more vulgar side of their vocabulary. In the end, the customer was very pleased with the result.

7. An argument via e-mail between a Japanese lady and her English-speaking boyfriend. (We sure hope the translation helped them patch things up!)

8. For one translator, a best man’s speech for the wedding of his best friend stood out. It turns out the entire speech was quite moving, particularly the stories and anecdotes about their friendship the years.

9.  Gengo translators have the opportunity to translate personal letters of all kinds. Another memorable one from our community was a letter from an unhappy mother who wrote to the current girlfriend of her former son-in-law.

10. For one translator, irate travelers’ feedback after their trips provided comic relief: “I almost fell off my chair while translating!”

11. A translator shared an anecdote about translating text for an esoteric workshop and admitted almost becoming a convert. “I considered it utter nonsense but I translated it so faithfully and convincingly that I nearly believed it myself in the end.”

12. Finally, one translator reported working on a letter from someone trying to convince their partner to get married. Though, apparently, the letter was not very convincing!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey! What other funny and strange jobs and projects have you encountered so far? Share them with us in the comments!

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Main image by Geber86 via iStockPhoto under the standard license


Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

  • Xavier

    The one I submitted in the survey was something like “Most awkwards BDSM stories”. People recounting funny/awkward situations that happens while they were (trying to have) having BDSM sex. My personal favourite: a Master tied up his partner upstairs, without realizing that the curtains were open. The neighbour panicked and called the Police, who showed up, talked the Master and went upstairs to talk to the partner and make sure everything was consensual… I couldn’t stop laughing!

  • Yoriyari

    The job that amused me the most was someone asking for the translation of a single word – “hi”.
    I’d think machine translations or even a quick google search would have sufficed, but someone wanted to spend 3 cents on making sure it was accurate :P

  • Rodrigo Leuci Cufré

    There were a few months in which it seemed I couldn’t stop getting articles like “15 things women need to know about IUDs”, “20 things you know if your periods are messy as hell”, and such. It was a pretty funny situation for me as a guy. Couldn’t I get a list about cars or sports for once??

    Also, I remember having to translate subtitles for a porn movie once. Not a very long job, as you can imagine (there wasn’t much dialogue). It was funny having to translate lines “Oh… hmm… yeah…” and [SLURP].
    And, even though almost every subtitling job I’ve ever translated came with the accompanying video… this job did not. Come on!

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