A Collection of Translation Mistakes
Is machine translation technology evolving? Google announced Neural Machine Translation (NMT) as the definitive solution for our translation needs. NMT technologies are supposed to learn from sentences instead of their components (words), to take into consideration all the subtleties and nuances that languages have when put into practice.
However, we still frequently come across amusing translation mistakes. If machines were doing a good job, surely, we would not have the following poor communication examples, would we?
Have a look at some of the auto-translated nonsense we have found:
It is June 2017 and the city of Cardiff is ready to welcome 170,000 Real Madrid and Juventus fans for the Champions League Final.
We come across a notice saying that National Express coaches are fully booked for the day. The company has translated the notice into Spanish and Italian, displaying it at a bus station in the Welsh city.
Both translations read “All (physical) trainers are fully booked today”. Were fans looking for some exercise just before the big game?
A few months ago, we were on a business trip in London and stayed in a hotel in Admirals Way. We read the Fire action directions as the hotel was huge and the Grenfell Tower fire was still fresh in our memory.
Examining the Spanish text, we spotted several mistakes which may lead guests to confusion. Not even the title, “Fire action”, is rendered appropriately.
We cannot understand why a hotel would jeopardize its customers’ safety in the case of a fire by not using professional translation services. Not to mention millionaire compensations they would have to pay in the case of death or injuries.
Next, we present this picture taken by a fellow translator on an excursion. She was a bit disappointed as she was planning to walk across the closed bridge, but she couldn’t help laughing after reading “DO NOT TRASPASSING” (instead of No Trespassing).
Last summer, we came across this banner welcoming Spanish and German tourists to the city of Cardiff.
A three-word sentence: “Welcome to Cardiff.” The German translation reads pretty well, but the Spanish text reads something like “Welcome at Cardiff”. Visitors will still be able to understand the message, but we don’t know whether they will feel truly welcome after reading this. What do you think?
After posting about this amusing mistake on social media, we got a phone call from the printing company. They asked us if we wanted to check the new translation as “it was going to cost a lot of money to reprint all banners again.” Oh dear, cheap translations can end up being very expensive!
Okay, so machine translation was not used in the text of the above picture - the poor spelling goes beyond it!
How many correct spellings can you spot? You can even have “alive ling onion” with your “pizza beef”. I forgot to ask my colleague whether she was brave enough to eat in this place. It is just too much!
Last but not least, we have a sign that made the news on the BBC. A council employee sent a translation request to a language service provider to assist with the translation into Welsh of the following sentence: "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only".
A few weeks later, Welsh-speaking drivers in Swansea came across a road sign saying: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."
This employee thought that the automated email response was the translation for the new road sign. I bet he thought: Free and quick, job done!
I hope that you enjoyed reading this. Feel free to leave your comments below!