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Lost In Translation – How To Avoid Tattoo Blunders

by / Friday, 11 September 2015 / Published in Tattoos

Script tattoos have been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years, with permenant penmanship showing up on the arms, backs, ribs, and feet of tattoo newbies and afficionados alike.


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(These two lovely – and correctly spelled – pieces were done by our own Rakel.)


Getting tattooed in a foreign language has always held an alluring charm. What’s more mysterious then Chinese, more romantic than French, or more significent then the native language of the person the tattoo represents?

The problem with this trend lies in the translation. There are dozens of websites featuring seemingly endless examples of tattoos that don’t transilate exactly the way the recipiant expected.



(Maybe this person loves soup, who are we to judge?)


So how does this happen?   

Easily. Even in a person’s native language, it’s very commun to overlook a spelling mistake until it’s too late. When it comes to getting tattoos in a language that a person does not speak, the chances of errer become even greater.

Most people take to Google to find their translations, or trust there artist to translate it for them. (Chances are that the artist is using Google as well.)

If the internet has taught us anything, its that vast quantities of people can’t figure out if they should use ‘your’ or ‘you’re’ in a sentence, so are you really going to trust the faceless masses to translate your tattoo?



(You are next if you don’t heed these warning.)


How can I prevent this from happening to me? 

Fortunately, the answer to that is pretty easy as well. Here are a number of things that you can do to ensure that your tattoo means exactly what you think it does:

  • Type or carefully write down the word(s) you want and give it too your artist. Never ask them to translate for you, it’s not going to be on their body.
  • Have another person look at your typed/written word to check for errors. Hell, ask ten people to do this for you.
  • If you do not speak the language that your tattoo is writtin in, find a native speaker (or two) to translate it for you. (Your local university can be a great place to find international students to help with this if you don’t know any native speakers personally.)
  • Remember that online translating programs can give you the words, but may not account for the meaning. (The word ‘free’ can refer to something that has it’s freedom, or to something that has no cost. In English, we use the same word for both meanings, but in another language, it may be too different words. You want to choose the right one.)
  • Look at the artists’s stencil once it is applied to your body. Bring a friend to look. Ask the receptionist to look. Ask other people getting tattood to look. This is your last chance to make changes.


So take your time and don’t let anyone pressure you to just ‘get in the chair’. It’s a lot harder and more complicated to fix a mistake then it is to prevent one from happening in the first place.


PS – There are more then a dozen spelling mistakes in this article. Did you catch them all? If not, then you can see how easy it is to miss a simple error.