The Hazards of Poor English Translations

A friend of mine recently sent me a document that had obviously been put through some second rate internet translator.  Now, for those of you who don’t know, an internet translator is fine for a word or two…but if you think you can dump a whole paragraph into a translator and get something recognizable out the other end, you’re sorely mistaken.  Translators really can’t take grammar or idiomatic phrases into account (grammar check on Microsoft word is completely useless as you might have guessed), so generally the result is a garbled mess.

Having done a fair bit of translating myself, I can attest to the fact that sometimes there is a bit of artistry involved.  You always have to choose between reproducing the source text as closely as possible and reproducing the source meaning.  Reproducing the source meaning can mean leaving out a fair number of words, or at least using different words and idiomatic phrases that aren’t exact translations (except for the meaning which is more accurate).
It’s actually a difficult business…and if you don’t do it right you get the following paragraph (again, remember this was sent by a business for the prospect of making a sale):
The phrase “We are pleased to go to you in order to lay eggs in his knowledge” almost makes your mind do a somersault before you realized that something is amiss…because it almost makes some sort of weird higher order sense.  What does it MEAN to “lay eggs in His knowledge”?  Is this some sort of religious event?
I also like “Without another individual and waiting for his agreeable orders, we got of yours.”  What the hell is “we got of yours”?  Is it something sexual.
Well…all this goes to show is that if you’re making a bid on some $100,000 job, you should go ahead and spend the extra $25 a page to get your proposal properly translated (which is what I charge by the way and I’ve done it tons).
Think it over!  And until the next time “I’ve got of yours!”

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  1. Howard Studstill

    I know exactly what you are talking about. They are only useful if you have some basic knowledge of the language. Having used the yahoo translator, I realized that I always had to go back and check vocabulary, grammar and gender. Ater a little tweaking it is okay but never send a message without the double check!! By the way, my friend in Lima, Ana Velazquez, is starting up a business which will address this particular need for American businesses doing business in South America. It is called, AVS Unlimited Enterprises or something like that. Look it up if you are doing business down there.

  2. Jorge

    U wish u had of mine

  3. Rodney

    Can't wait till my Spanish is as good as yours Amigo so that I can get $25 a page for translating also. 🙂 Love the example yo inserted.

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