I was horrified to hear of a potential diplomatic debacle this morning when for her state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany the Queen was presented with twenty-one salad bowls upon arrival at the airport. Of course, my jaw dropped and the marmalade fell off my breakfast toast when I read the news. I adjusted the iPad screen between my buttered fingers and read the headline again. Why salad bowls? A German tradition perhaps or, a protest from Greenpeace or “the Greens”?

No, it was none of the above. It was a slippery finger on the screen which had touched the “automatic” translation button and turned 21 German “Salutschüsse” into salad bowls (Salatschüsseln). In the original (untranslated) German version of the online report all was again in order and I could adjust the Union Jack protruding from our regal toaster to celebrate the day: “Queen welcomed with 21 gun salute.” Her Majesty would be amused.

But nobody enjoys it when carefully-drafted legal documents are lost in translation. Beware of using convenient “quickie” translation devices (including convenient web and automatic online translation services) or accepting a translation offered merely on the basis of price. A penny unwisely saved in translation charges can cost you a fortune later.

So, if you want to work effectively with a business leader (!) (Geschaftsführer) or procurator (!) (Prokurist) on a contract, be sure to also work closely with your over-typesetters (!) (Übersetzer(in) / translator) and make sure he or she is acquainted with legal terminology and the legal consequences of legal words and phrases otherwise, you may be in trouble especially when “die Zeit ist von der Essenz” (!) (time is of the essence). And then, your colleges (!) (Kollegen) or clients will no longer be your “grösstes Gebläse”(!) (greatest fan). God and the world (!) will not be happy.

And certainly the Queen will not be amused.