Duolingo will fix your badly translated tattoo

Campaign from the language learning app drops ahead of World Tattoo Day

Published On
Mar 17, 2022

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Pop quiz! Can you guess what the phrases below represent? 

Japanese barbecue finger
Flower Rebel

No, they’re not bad band names. They’re botched tattoos on the bodies of big-name celebrities—Ariana Grande, Rihanna and David Beckham, respectively—all of whom chose to get inked permanently with foreign language phrases but didn’t bother to fact check them first. Grande had intended to get the Japanese version of her tune "Seven Rings" inscribed on her palm; Rihanna's tat reversed her intended phrase while Beckham's Hindi inscription ended up misspelling his missus' name. 

Such screw-ups inspired a new campaign from Duolingo and BETC that breaks ahead of World Tatttoo Day (March 21). The language learning app is offering a “public service” to check people’s foreign language tattoos, and a few of those unfortunate souls who pulled a Grande will be flown to Paris to get their tats fixed at the city’s famous tattoo parlor, Abraxas

Also read: A ranking of the most popular brand tattoos.

To participate, fans must share a photo of their tattoo on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #TattooDuoOver and tag @duollingo, @duolingouk or @duolingofrance, along with what they think their tattoo says. (More embarrassed folks can email their tat pics to [email protected].) The effort will be running for two weeks beginning on World Tattoo Day.

“Everyone makes mistakes when they’re learning a new language; it’s part of the process, but making a mistake with a tattoo is very different!” said Duolingo Creative Director James Kuczynski in a statement.  “We’re taking an all too common language fail and turning it into a fun, learning moment with real purpose.”

Also, some cautionary advice from  Gignoud Loïc, manager and artist art Abraxas: “You shouldn’t expect a tattoo artist to speak every language; it’s your responsibility to learn the language before you ask someone to tattoo it on your body. Or at least have someone present who speaks the language fluently to oversee. We’re artists, after all, not linguists!”