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Worst Translations of 2018

Can you believe 2018 is almost over? I mean, it just started a couple of weeks ago. I remember writing my New Year’s Resolution. And now it’s almost time to repeat the whole ‘New year, new me’ thing. Let’s accept the fact that this year went by so fast…. and amuse ourselves with some of it’s Translation highlights!

Let’s take a look back at this year, and re-visit the worst translations of 2018!


You’re wearing what?

A Swedish person wanted to convey the message that he was on a Juice Cleanse, so he used Google Translate. The software translated his Swedish text to this, “I am wearing Juice.” Let’s hope this fashionista learned his lesson! People communicate better than machines. Maybe next time he’ll hire a translator!



During the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the chef for the Norwegian Olympic team needed to order eggs for his team breakfasts. He used Google Translate to help him. He wanted to order 1500 eggs… but Korean characters are tricky, the numbers don’t look like western numbers… And somehow an extra zero was added!

When the delivery truck arrived, it was full to bursting of eggs… 15,000 of them! According to the chef, “There was no end to the delivery, absolutely unbelievable!”

Fortunately, he was able to return the 13,500 eggs that weren’t needed!


The Rise of the Machines

The Boao Forum for Asia is a non-profit organization. It hosts grand forums for leaders from governments, business and academia in Asia. It is often called Asia’s Davos. This year they used Tencent’s AI-powered translators for both simultaneous interpretation and transcripts. 

Unfortunately, this AI was not ready to lift the weight of the complexities of human language. At one point, China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative was translated as “One Road, One Waistband”!

Despite all the hype that machines can do better than human beings, there is a reason why humans are preferred as interpreters and translators. Researcher, Lily Wang, summed it up nicely, saying, “The difficulty is that people talk with emotions and context, but technology can’t read people’s feelings. Most programmers who develop these AI interpreters usually do not have a good understanding of linguistics.”



When this years Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon was won by Israel’s Netta Barzilai, her country could not have been prouder. But Israels’ emotions were deeply hurt by Microsoft Translator. Benjamin Netanyahu (the current Prime Minister of Israel) congratulated her in a tweet with the help of Microsoft Translator. He wanted to say “Netta, you are a real darling. You have brought much respect for the State of Israel.” But instead, it was translated to “Netta, you are a real cow …” Put that software out to grass!


The wrap

Finally, it has to be said, that software won all of our 2018 awards! It is still better to hire a translator or a translation agency than to rely on machines. It may cost you a little, but at least your work will be error-free. Be understood in 2019!

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