Do you really need to use a native-speaking proofreader? With all the improvements in AI, auto-translation tools, and spellcheckers, surely not. I guess it’s time for me to change careers yet again. But before I do, I should confer with cymru, the X account for all Welsh national teams.

I love football (or soccer, depending on where you’re from). I used to play twice a week and still watch EPL games most weekends. One of my favorite memories of my time in Korea was being here for the 2002 World Cup—what a month that was!

Friendly football matches aren’t always friendly

During the most recent international break, Korea travelled to Wales for a friendly. The official X account for all Welsh national teams wanted to welcome Korea to Wales. They did so by sharing this tweet:

See original tweet

Korean flags, Welsh and Korean fans enjoying Korean food together. What a lovely sentiment and such a nice gesture, right? 

Well, it would’ve been—if they’d gotten it right.

A native-speaking proofreader could’ve helped ensure this gesture was received the way it was intended

They got the Korean flag (taegugki) right. Kimchi is obviously a Korean dish, though naming a restaurant after it is somewhat odd. Kimchi is a side dish, not a main course. But the most egregious mistake is in the name of the restaurant. 

For those of you who don’t read Korean, all those funny-looking symbols (韩国料理) are Chinese. Korea has its own alphabet (Hangul) and language (Korean). Korean newspapers and official documents sometimes still use Chinese characters. But using them to welcome the Korean national soccer team to Wales is a pretty big faux pas.

According to this article, the image is a representation of an actual restaurant in Wales. It serves Korean food but to a mainly Chinese customer base. Thus, it makes sense the name of the restaurant is in Chinese.

Needless to say, this did not go down well. The tweet has 70+ comments, which are overwhelmingly negative. Many are from Koreans, drawing attention to the fact that the image contains Chinese characters instead of Hangul. Others are presumably Welsh fans, embarrassed about the blunder. Several people pointed out that when Koreans use Chinese characters, they use Traditional Chinese, not the Simplified Chinese in the image.

An Asian male screaming at a computer screen

Foreign languages are tough—isn’t it enough they tried?

This was an honest mistake. It wasn’t a case of Google Translate letting them down. But could they have avoided it? YES!!! By asking ANY KOREAN to review the image before posting. Though this is an actual restaurant, using Chinese characters to welcome the Korean national team is inexcusable.

They could’ve edited the image to use Hangul (한국음식 or 한식) for Korean food. They added Welsh to the signboard with the date of the match (DYDD IAU 7FED O FEDI – Thursday 7th September). The sign for Cardiff City Stadium (STADIWM DINAS CAERDYDD) doesn’t appear in photos of the restaurant.

Interestingly, the Korean in the text of the tweet is correct. There’s another way to welcome someone in Korean (환영합니다 ), but the phrase used (어서 오세요 ) is the expression used to welcome someone to a restaurant. I’m going to guess that was a happy coincidence.

I remember another international incident that could’ve been avoided with a native-speaking proofreader

This reminds me of an incident from a recent Olympics. A Spanish taekwondo athlete wore a belt with “Train hard, dream big” written in Korean—at least that’s what she thought it said. Unfortunately, she used the noun for train (transportation) instead of the verb (practice) and also got most everything else wrong. Though not offensive, people picked up on it, and it made some headlines. The Korean ambassador to Spain even visited the athlete later in Spain. He presented her with a belt with the phrase written correctly in Korean.

The words Dream Big spelled out in Scrabble tiles

Yes, intent counts. But in the Internet age, there’s no reason not to consult a native speaker, particularly a trained proofreader.

Just because someone else has done something doesn’t mean it’s safe to copy. That’s precisely what happened in this next case. This is what happened with a Korean baseball team a few years ago.

Monkey see, monkey do—a dangerous philosophy to live by

The Oakland Athletics are often referred to as the A’s. When Korea’s SK Wyvern’s were sold to Sinsaegae, they rebranded as the Landers. They decided to follow Oakland Athletics’ lead and created a similar logo—L’s.

The problem? The Athletics got it wrong. And by copying them, the Landers got it wrong as well.

As I wrote about in this post, we use apostrophes to indicate:⁠

  1. ⁠Possession (Steve’s glove)⁠
  2. A contraction (Steve’s hungry. = Steve is hungry.)⁠
  3. Plurals of lowercase letters (There are two a’s in the word alphabet.)⁠

You can read the above post for a detailed explanation about why none of these usages apply here. The Oakland Athletics should be known as the As. And the Landers should be known as the Ls. And while Landers is a ridiculous name for a team, referring to yourself as the Ls is even more so. Particularly in sports, an “L” is short for a “loss”. People sometimes mock others by making an L shape with their thumb and index finger and holding it up to their forehead. The L represents “loser.” That’s not a great branding strategy for any sports team. 

The SSG Lander's logo, a red L's

An English native speaker would’ve likely pointed out the “Loser” association but may have missed the apostrophe. That’s why you need to contact a native-speaking proofreader. And even when you get the grammar right, there may be a cultural or slang meaning you’re unaware of. 

Is there really a need for native English-speaking proofreaders in Korea?

I’ve posted several examples of awkward, potentially offensive signs in Korea that a native-speaking proofreader would’ve picked up on.

Swearing is fun—it’s often one of the first things we learn in a new language. But not knowing the nuance behind certain swear words can be problematic.

A native-speaking proofreader would've advise against this sign that says "Don't waste your fuckin' time."
A native-speaking proofreader would've advise against this sign that says "It's so fucking special PUB you don't come, you get pimple"
A native-speaking proofreader would've advise against naming this restaurant "Shit House"

Slang meanings or unintended innuendo can also be a problem for non-native speakers. I’d never expect someone who isn’t a native speaker to pick up on why these examples may get an unintentional laugh.

A native-speaking proofreader could've explained why it was a bad idea to name this section of the grocery store "Meat Market"
A native-speaking proofreader could've explained why "Sausage Party" was a bad name for this pack of assorted sausages.

Not understanding cultural references fully can also be problematic. Using gang-related themes of actual gangs could end badly.

A sign for a new burger restaurant called Crips Burger, complete with graffiti and gang symbols
An menu electronic menu for a Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich, incorrectly translated into as anti-american sandwich.

Auto translation tools aren’t always your friend—they’re often your enemy.

No matter how unintentional your spelling mistake is, that won’t matter if you offend potential customers.

A native-speaking proofreader would've explained why naming this cafe Coffee Cum was a bad idea.
A screenshot of the Commax website which has mispelled Cummunity Service.

The Welsh X account should’ve contacted a Korean proofreader for their image. This Korean food restaurant (한식) should’ve contacted a native English-speaking proofreader. 

This Korean restaurant should've used a native-speaking proofreader to catch the mistake "Kerean Restaurant"

People won’t always give you credit when you do things right. But they’ll notice your errors and point them out—always.

If you’re not sure, contact a native-speaking proofreader—get it right

I don’t expect the official Wales account to be fluent in Chinese, Korean, or any other foreign language. But I do expect them to be professional enough to consult a native-speaking proofreader to avoid mistakes like this.

No matter what language, if you’re going to create something that’s public facing, take the time to get it right. Ideally, that means contacting a native-speaking proofreader. But when that’s impossible, at least check with a native speaker. 

Remember, DC CopyPro will help you with small proofreading tasks (i.e. signs, single menu items, slogans)—for free! Feel free to contact me for help!

Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Threads, or Twitter for more content and to stay up to date.

Leave a Reply