What are the most funny/misleading machine translation mistakes you've seen?

Margarita Shvetsova
14 replies
Hey Product Hunters, We launched our product yesterday and received many comments about machine translation vs. human translation: https://www.producthunt.com/post... It's a topic that fascinates me and I've been collecting fun machine translation failures for a long time, let me share with you some of my faves 😉 I speak some Mandarin Chinese and that's a great language for machine translation failures 😁 1. There is this Chinese set phrase 吃醋 (= to be jealous; literally “to eat vinegar”), and machine translation gets it right. But if we use this phrase in a sentence… 你还会吃前女友的醋吗? Oops! This awkward moment when “Are you still jealous of your ex?” turns into “Will you still eat the vinegar of his ex-girlfriend?” 2. Another Chinese to English translation example (sorry, didn't keep the Chinese version, but I do have the Google translate screenshot): “I hope you’ll be beautiful in the future”. Lol what? The original Chinese phrase said “I hope you’ll have a great (“beautiful”) future”. 3. One of the key problems is that machine translation often doesn't get the context. It becomes especially serious if you translate standalone words (like UI or other short strings of text). In one of translations there was a single word wasted. It was a game context, so apparently it would mean "killed", but it could also mean "spent in vain", "drunk" and many other things. A human translator can assume the correct meaning based on other strings of this translation, or simply ask you for more details - but the machine won't. It will go for the most common version - in this case, it will be "spent". 4. Another one was when I had an article about games translated from English into Turkish - by a native speaker. I ran the finished translation through Google Translate to check stuff like links and figures in place. And I came across this: "(İşte bu nedenle,) oyun geliştiricileri için yerelleştirme sürecini olabildiğince baş ağrıtmayan bir iş haline getirebilmek adına, (tasarım sürecinin en başından itibaren uygulanabilecek bir takım kurallar içeren bu listeyi hazırladık.)" - Google Translate said "...in order to make the localization process as a headache as possible for game developers". (WAIT, WHAT??) The Turkish version actually means “less troublesome as much as possible, less of a headache as much as possible”, but Google translate was telling me the opposite 😆 Please share your opinion and favorite machine translation mistakes in the comments! Also, it would be great to hear your feedback about our human translation platform: https://www.producthunt.com/post... Thanks! 🙂


Andrii Kpyto
"Happy birthday! Dobby is free!" in Hebrew Revert translation Hebrew => English was "Happy birthday! Happy bear stocking!"
Jeanette Järnstedt
The Finnish language is also very resourceful for funny translations! Most of the time the bad translations just won't make any sense, but sometimes they are funny. - He was a moron -> Hän oli mormoni (He was a Mormon) - He has a christmas 24/7 -> Hänellä viettää joulua 24. heinäkuuta (He celebrates Christmas on the 24th of July) - What's up? -> Mitä on ylhäällä? (What are the things up there?) Oh and also, Microchip being translated to a small potato chip 🤣
Margarita Shvetsova
@jeanettej Haha I love the one about Christmas and the potato chip! 😂 Yeah, languages like Finnish, Russian, Estonian (that is, languages rich in various declensions and endings) are GREAT for finding funny translation mistakes! :D
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Margarita Shvetsova
@maxwellcdavis that's not bad ;) ten years ago there was a hilarious (but not politically correct) translation failure if you translated from English to Russian... it literally went viral on the internet, and the Google team found out about it and corrected the mistake :) it has improved considerably since then, of course.
Alina Ihnatiuk
"F*ck off"...this phrase depends on the context, the translator translates it with only one meaning :D
Ira GI
I did not encounter errors, but I heard that the majority occurs when translating Turkish, Arabic
Rosie Higgins
My favourite from recently is, if you go to Amazon.es (Amazon Spain) and you have your page set to translate to English. It comes up as "Amazon.it is" 😂
Iris Park
It's not a machine translation, but when I think about translation mistakes, the first that comes to mind is a line in the movie "Avengers: Infinity War", the last line Nick Fury said. He was about to say "Oh, mother fxx" but in Korean translation, the subtitle was "Oh mother" and it made it sound like he misses his mother XD So there were memes and jokes of how Nick Fury was such a good son to his mother.
Margarita Shvetsova
@iris_park haha that's really funny, thanks for sharing ;) I've also seen some of such mistranslations in movies dubbed in Russian (my native language), when the Russian translation totally missed the point.
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Diter Knobloch
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