10 Inexplicable Google Translate Fails

by Nicole July 13th, 2011 

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Google Translate is a godsend for those who wish to shop on foreign websites, browse news stories in their language of origin, or get some cheeky help with French homework. However, as with everything on the internet (see http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/) you cant always trust Google Translate to be entirely accurate. Its also wrong to cheat, so do your French homework the old fashioned way " with lots of swearing and throwing of dictionaries.

10. Google Translate Loves Canada

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Google Translate went through a bit of a learning curve with such things as place names, language names and other national signifiers. What makes this one special is the particular choice that Google made in its translation. Its obviously unthinkable for anyone to love England or the United States of America or any other English-speaking country " apart from Canada.

9. Gotta Catch Em ll

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It would be amazing if German children just opened their mouths and screamed when discussing the phenomenon that is Pokemon " its certainly what a lot of kids do, even though its not an actual word. Sadly, this isnt quite the case. Rather, it seems that Google was the victim of some internet pranksters, who continually suggested pokemon as the translation for , until Googles software thought it was correct.

8. Google Thinks The French Are Filthy

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The French have a certain reputation for Don Juan-like tendencies. It must be something about the thin mustaches, or maybe the accent. Google seems to take a dim view of this carry-on, believing that the slightly risqu English request to take a dirty picture for me would be a much more forceful, if not downright rude, take a picture for me slut when coming from a Frenchman.

7. Google Seems To Have Inside Information

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Google Answers may be gone, but you can still ask Google the pressing questions in life. In response to that worry of teenage girls everywhere, Will Justin Bieber ever hit puberty, Google replies (in Vietnamese), Justin will never reach puberty. Adding in a question mark leads Google to respond with a question of its own, apparently shocked by its own interpretation: Justin will never reach puberty?

6. Google Goes Back To Basics

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Google isnt entirely wrong with this translation: way back in the day these pretty South African antelopes were named for their habit of jumping high in the air when startled. The Dutch words springen, to jump or vault, went with bok, meaning antelope or goat, to give us Springbok. That did happen several hundred years ago, though, and Springbok is itself now just a word " as well as South Africa's national animal, no less! It would be as if Google were given a French sentence containing the word restaurant and dutifully translated it into the English, food that restores.

5. Google Didnt Anticipate The Sense of Humor of Its Users

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The English phrase, Im not sure this translator is working, translates to the Afrikaans, Im not sure hierdie vertaler werk. To be fair, the translation of hierdie vertaler werk is this translator works, but its juxtaposition with the English words, Im not sure, just makes it too funny to pass up, especially when the correct translation of Im not sure is Ek is nie seker.

4. Google Places Too Much Emphasis On Context

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No Google, sentences about the city of Amsterdam are not in fact the same as those about London, even if you change the language. We can see some people being very surprised when they read about the picturesque canals of London " just a stones throw from the marijuana cafs and legalized prostitution Similarly, just because Google can easily switch from language to language, it doesnt mean that we can.

3. Google Recommends Music

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clip_image024 Perhaps Google wants to recommend music that it thinks its users will prefer, or perhaps it knows how to compare musicians across cultures. Perhaps we will never know. What we do know is that according to Google, Sigur Ros in Iceland is the same as the Foo Fighters in England, Lady Gaga in Malaysia can pass for Britney Spears in Poland, and Florin Salam in the Netherlands is the spitting image of Barry Manilow. Who knew?

2. Samsung Must Be Friends With Google

clip_image026 Either Samsung and Google are the best of friends or Samsung just got very, very lucky. Thanks to some awkward translations, Samsung got a jump up ahead of the competition in Romania. Anybody who was trying to translate an English product review about Motorola products would instead find the text extolling the virtues of Samsungs offerings when they read it in Romanian.

1. Google Hates Facebook

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It isnt really news that the two internet giants have a certain antipathy towards each other " after all they are competitors of sorts and there's some history of bad blood. However, this dislike seems to have seeped into every aspect of Googles being, with the simple translation of I HATE YOU being hijacked into a diatribe about Facebook in Japanese. Apparently Google thinks that the true meaning of hate is I have to use your Facebook.

Bonus: Google Gets Down

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The listen option is always a good place to go for a laugh. Some bright sparks figured out that various simple strings of text could give the listener their very own sound effects. Try translating ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp from Portuguese to Spanish, for example, and you'll get the perfect helicopter sound effect.

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Anyways, Google seems to have noticed the sudden uptick in the amount of people translating pv zk pv pv zk pv zk kz zk pv pv pv zk pv zk zk pzk pzk pvzkpkzvpvzk kkkkkk bsch from English to German, and helpfully changed the Listen button to Beatbox " that being the sound said string of nonsense was thought to resemble after being put through Google's mix deck. Google is down with the kids after all " even if it does sometimes behave like an aging multilinguist with a touch of senile dementia.

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5 Responses to “10 Inexplicable Google Translate Fails”

  1. Bradd Libby says:

    Thanks for rounding up these interesting examples.

    I've typed gibberish into Google Translate before to find out which languages they are working on adding. Here's a list of languages I found. I wouldn't mind hearing about others.

    Translate seems to have problems with some types of nouns. Here's one example where 'Oslo' was mistranslated as 'London', and here's a blog post about problems with problems with prices, dates and more.

  2. [...] be honest, Google Translate has been known to produce some "fail" material, aka this or [...]

  3. JP says:

    The last one (Beatbox)… Put it from finnish to german :D :D:D

  4. Emma Reed says:

    This is an excellent example of how machine translation is not perfect. And specially in some cases as mentioned above it is pathetic.

    This point is always advocated by the translation companies that use human translation methods for getting accurate translations. Generally many take it as a marketing gimmick but examples mentioned prove the facts.

    Somehow I would like to share one advantage of the Google or other online translation methods. For those that don't understand other foreign language at all can at least get a feel of what a sentence or email sent could roughly mean. You can use Google along with some other translating website so that both will not make same mistakes. I have used this method practically and found it worked to the best of my expectations.

  5. David says:

    The fundamental problem when translating between two non-english languages (say, Italian to German) is that google always translates to English first (Italian to English then English to German). With all those English words that have more than one meanings, you have an instant recipe for confusion. "Molla" becomes "Frühling" because google can't tell the difference between a piece of coiled wire and the season following Winter.
    :-)