Mo' Meddlin': McDonald's Hmong Focused St. Paul Billboard is Unreadable

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If you've recently spent some time in Saint Paul, specifically near the corner of Lexington and University Avenues, you may have noticed an entirely new type of billboard up. McDonald's released it's first ever U.S. billboard written in the Hmong language. However, there are a few big problems with it though.

The billboard which reads "Yuavtxhawbpabraukojsawv yuavntxivzograukoj mus." is suppose to loosely translate to "Coffee gets you up, breakfast gets you going." The problem is, Hmong speakers can't read it. The language is too literal and words have been mashed together. "It sounds weird in Hmong because we don't really talk like that," said Bruce Thao, 28, a St. Paul resident and doctoral candidate in social work. "Either way, there should definitely be spaces in between those words."

"The text is also wrong, missing key breaks in the language," Thai Lee said. "As it stands right now, it doesn't make sense at all." Thai Lee also points out that coffee is not a staple of the Hmong diet. At the Hmong Village Marketplace in St. Paul, it's common to see patrons enjoying hot teas and cold "bubble tea" with chewy tapioca pearls, but you'd be hard pressed to find a cup of joe.

The lesson here is know your audience and hire a proper translation firm.

Saint Paul's Hmong McDonald's Billboard



The latest translation blunder from a major advertiser… you’d think they’d know better. The perfect example of why an in-language ad should be more than just a simple translation. Cultural relevance along with well-written and executed messages are essential for reaching ethnic audiences, instead of infuriating them: principles that we at TripleInk apply every day, with all our clients.

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