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Lost In Translation

Last week, as the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, had his only policy address during his four day trip to the United States, he was left with quite a surprise.  He was toasted by Coca Cola Co.’s Chief Executive Officer, Muhtar Kent, in a very original way… in Japanese.

“In honor of this very historic moment, I would like to propose a toast to President Hu and also to his esteemed delegation — kanpai,” Kent said.

Laughter erupted from the crowd immediately.  See, Kent used the word “kanpai”, meaning cheers in the Japanese language.  Unfortunately for Kent, nobody told him that the Chinese and Japanese word for “Cheers!” both use the same Chinese characters, but pronounced differently in the two languages.  The word in Chinese is “ganbei.”  Fortunately, nobody took offense to this mix-up.

This was the second translation issue since Hu has been in the U.S.  (President’s Translation Mix-Up) Having a qualified and experienced linguist around would have easily prevented this mistake and saved Kent much embarrassment.  Next time they should call Epic Translations!

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