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Did you really mean to say that?

How emojis might be interpreted differently.

Emoji Image
CK Khandekar

CK Khandekar

Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Smartling

There’s no denying that emojis have become the universal way to communicate for many. They are easy to use, easy to understand, and the possibilities are endless!

According to Emojipedia, the definitive emoji reference website, there are over 3,300 emojis in the Unicode Standard as of January 2020. In 2019, 230 new emojis were released and this year, there will be 117 new emojis added.

Here’s another mind-shattering statistic, 5 billion (yes billion!) emojis are sent daily via Facebook Messenger. And the most popular day to use emojis? New Years Eve! Think lots of champagne bottles, confetti, and firework related emojis being sent that day!

But while emojis continue to grow in popularity and in usage, not every emoji has the same meaning in different markets. Believe it or not, an emoji that one might think is used for comedic or playful purposes can have a completely opposite, derogatory meaning in another country.

Here are a few emojis that one might have to be careful using:

Emoji...Typically defined as...But can also mean...Fear Factor...
👍Show agreement or approvalA very obscene gesture in Greece and the Middle East😱😱😱
👋Saying bye, see you laterBreaking off the friendship😱😱
👼Sign of InnocenceA death sign in China😱😱
👏Show PraiseA symbol for making love in China😱😱
👌Things are okThe equivalent of the middle finger in Brazil and Turkey😱😱
🙏PrayThank you or asking for forgivenessNone, thankfully
🍑A peachA person's rear end!😱😱
🍆EggplantWell...you know ;-)😱😱😱
🤘Ward off bad luckInfidelity in Brazil, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Colombia, and Argentia😱😱
✌️Peace or VictoryEither the middle finger or a sexual reference. Back in the early '90s, George Bush Sr waved the peace sign backwards in Australia, prompting controversy😱😱😱
🙂HappinessDistrust, Disbelief in China😱

Why is this important to understand? Because when you are translating any content, there is a really good chance that some of that content will have emojis. Can you imagine the hit your brand’s reputation might take from one poorly placed emoji?

To ensure your emojis are not going to trigger a negative reaction, you need to have proper safeguards in place when that content is being translated.

That is why Smartling recently optimized Quality Check Profiles. Designed to be automated proofreading checkpoints in the translation process, one use case of Quality Check Profiles ensures consistency of emoji usage between the source string and translated content. Here are three ways to check that emojis in the source are correctly transferred to the translation:

  • Emoji added: An emoji that was not in the source content is added to the target
  • Emoji deleted: An emoji that is in the source has been deleted from the target
  • Does not allow emoji in translation: An error is generated if there are emojis in the translated string

In short, translation can be tricky and without the right safeguards in place, could potentially lead to major faux if not properly addressed.

Learn more about Smartling’s Quality Check Profiles can prevent such a faux paux from happening.

About CK

CK Khandekar is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Smartling, responsible for overseeing all go-to-market activities for Smartling's new products and features, and creates content to educate customers and buyers on benefits and best practices of using Smartling's technology and language services. CK has been a part of the Smartling team since 2019 and collectively has over ten years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.


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