Have you ever taken a seat in a restaurant, opened the menu and found dishes such as “Sautéed Happy Family” or desserts with names like “Cigarette Pie”? Even if you’ve never seen a menu like that, there’s a good chance that you’ll come across one sooner or later.
As STUDIOTRE’s team can tell you, translating for the culinary world is a tricky task. All sorts of stumbling blocks await inside menus, especially when the language and culture of a restaurant (including on the food and wine front) are very different from those of its customers.
Let’s take a look at some of the common problems presented by food and wine translations.
– Different styles and languages
When you’re translating menus, you need to be familiar with all the right culinary terminology (including ingredients, initials and abbreviations) and have the ability to describe dishes enticingly using language that reflects the style of the restaurant and the specific local culture.
– Different writing systems
Many mistakes can be made when people translate from alphabet-based languages (such as Italian, English and French) into ideograph-based languages (such as Japanese and Chinese) and vice versa.
– Inadequate or non-existent terms
The names of traditional dishes in their original languages are steeped in all sorts of evocative meanings that are frequently hard to translate. It is often the case that certain words simply do not exist in other languages. Even if they do, they may be incapable of properly conveying the specific concept expressed in the source language.
For example, the Moroccan dish mechoui could be translated with the words “slow-roasted mutton or lamb”, but it involves a unique roasting process that cannot be found anywhere else.
– Turning positive meanings into negative ones
Some terms that have a positive meaning in their original languages can take on negative connotations in other languages. Cubans are fond of Ropa Vieja, but would you eat a beef dish whose name literally means “old clothes”? Meanwhile, Mexicans cannot get enough of Tacos Sudados, or “sweaty tacos”.
So what should you do if you don’t want your menu to be filled with names like “Climbing with Hen”, “Students Bits Roasted” and “Mediterranean Risotto with Smallpox”? Steer clear of machine translation systems and instead choose STUDIOTRE and our partner Dishcovery, just like Franco Pepe has done.
He’s the chef at “Pepe in Grani”, which is considered the best pizzeria in Italy and the world. Thanks to the app by Marco Simonini and Giuliano Vita, all of the quintessential nuances of Italian cuisine have been preserved in the menu, which is now interactive and enables customers to find out about allergens in the dishes and recommended wine and beer pairings.
Would you like the menu in your restaurant to be easily accessible to all of your customers? Contact us!
** The translation mistakes were gathered together and published in the Atlas Obscura blog.