Friday, May 8, 2009

Translation Follies

If you'd like a good laugh you can find some wonderful translations errors over at ameriquebec. The nationalist site is frothing at the mouth over some pretty amusing gaffes on the French side of various products sold in the province.
I have to admit, nothing beats this boo boo by a company selling a shovel that they call 'Snow Pusher.' which they translated into- " Snow Drug Dealer" (Pusher=Drug Dealer).

You've got to admit it's a bit funny.
Unfortunately, the language crusaders over at Ameriquebec take a dim view of such gaffes and have called for a boycott in what can only be described as a comical over-reaction that is typical of the religious language zealots.

Obviously this small company used an Internet translation service like Google Translate or Yahoo's Bable Fish.
These sites are notoriously inefficient and should never be used in any official capacity.

Here's what Ameriquebec said about the affair.
" N’hésitez pas à faire circuler ces images et à boycotter les compagnies qui nesedonnent pas la peine de se payer ne serait-ce qu’un traducteur et qui secontententplutôt d’utiliser des traducteurs automatiques sur internet."
Here's how two of the Internets most popular translation sites handled the text;
Babel Fish
"Do not hesitate to make circulate these images and to boycott the companies which do not try hard to be paid would be this only one translator and which is rather satisfied to use automatic translators on Internet."
Google Translate;
"Feel free to circulate these images and to boycott companies that did not bother to pay even a translator who only tend to use automatic translators on the internet."
As a lark, I sent the Lord's Prayer through both translation softwares sites and here is the result;
Babel Fish
"Our Father, which be with the skies, that your name is sanctified, that your reign comes, that your will is made on the ground as with the sky. Give us aujourd' today our bread of this day. Forgive us our offences as we also forgive with those which offended us. And do not subject to us with temptation, but to us evil delivers, because c' with you qu' is; the reign, the power and glory belong, at the centuries of the centuries. Amen."

Google Translate;
"Our Father, who art in heaven, be thy name, Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our offenses as we also forgive those who have offended. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, because of you qu'appartiennent the kingdom, the power and glory for ever and ever."Amen.
As you can see, Google Translate is far superior, but I wouldn't use it to translate my resumé, that's for sure.

I spent the last thirty years in the retail business and can tell you that there isn't a spelling mistake that goes unnoticed by the language crusaders.
Every week our company would receive nasty e-mails and calls from language crusaders complaining about this and that mistake. When we'd direct them to the manufacturer, they were indignant, as if we were responsible.
The letters all contained the familiar vernacular of the nationalist movement.
"Insult" "Humiliation" "Disgrace" blah...blah... blah...

Most of the errors were made by small companies based outside Quebec (In Canada) who relied their Chinese manufacturers to get the artwork and text right. We sometimes helped out and proofed the material before it went to press.

There's really no excuse for these gaffes, but perhaps the small size and limited budget can be used as a mitigating factor.

But translation errors are a two way street and there are many examples of mangled English, including the Government of Quebec, who has the budget and wherewithal to know and do better.
See my recent post about an advertisement by Transports Quebec.
Although the ad was obviously translated by a non-anglophone, I would never claim to be humiliated or insulted. It was just a translation mistake, without malice of intent.
Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake.

AmeriQuebec, GET A LIFE!

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