Instagram Is Not Immune from Korean Translation Errors Either

It can be exciting to have one's writing translated. I'm sure the folks over at Instagram are pretty happy to know that their mobile interface is localized into umpteen languages… Who knows? They might have even gotten it crowdsource-translated for free… Only problem is that… well, there's a mistranslation.

No, I'm sorry… There isn't "a" mistranslation…

There are multiple mistranslations… on one simple screen!

Let's start with the English:

9-6-2013 3-11-14 AM

Notice how each of the four phrases ("Share", "Delete", "Add People" and "Copy Share URL") is in the imperative form, starting with a verb. It's written consistently and correctly.

Here's the Korean:

9-6-2013 3-01-07 AM

There are two main problems with the Korean translation.

The first is that the translation of "Copy Share URL" is just wrong. In Korean, the verb goes at the end; but in this case, they just put the noun for "copy" in front of "share URL", as if Korean would have the same sentence structure as the English. To be meaningful, it should be re-written as "공유 URL 복사".

The second issue is consistency. The translation of "share" is written in a way that makes it clear that "share" is to be understood as a verb by adding "하기" to the end. However, if we assume the correction of the fourth line as explained in the paragraph above, then lines 2, 3 and 4 all simply end in nouns but do not use "하기" to clarify the usage. It's a bit hard to explain, but they are understandable to a Korean user and for brevity, perhaps even preferrable to the approach taken in the first line. But the grammar is not consistent and so one of the two following styles should be chosen and used throughout:

Option #1



사람 추가하기

공유 URL 복사하기

Option #2



사람 추가

공유 URL 복사


Korean Translation Tip #1 – To avoid the first error discussed above, make sure to give your translator enough context to know how the translation will be used. Screenshots of the interface and explanations of what's supposed to happen in each situation are helpful.

Korean Translation Tip #2 – To avoid the inconsistencies issue, make sure to provide your translator with existing translations for reference so that he/she can match the style on additional work. Better yet, have a style guide made up in advance for all translations. Also, use the same translators throughout the same project, if possible, and be ready to pay extra for your translator to take the time to properly review the previous translations and style guide.


* For more of these, check out A Collection of Korean Translation Errors in the User Interfaces of Leading Software.

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