Funny Machine Translation Errors

One of the things we find amusing is how machine translation can make some really silly mistakes.

A common misunderstanding is that translation is just about words however context is very important in understanding exactly what the words mean.

Machine translation engines provide free translation, but the quality is often very bad. They translate words and phrases but can never perform like a human in understanding the text.  Here are some fun examples we’ve found in our own research.

“A School of Fish was spotted in the sea”

A school of fish was spotted in the sea

The translation above literally means that a school (schools where kids go) full of fish was in the sea. In French the word école means a physical school. They don’t have the term “school of fish” in French. We also translated – Sharks swim in schools and got the same result. Sharks swim in colleges!

The translation is thus taken out of context since the right phrase to translate “a school of fish” would have been “un banc de poisson”. Google and all the other machine translation engines we tested made the same mistake.

French Machine Translation Errors

Poor French translation example from Google Translate

A interesting French idiom is Se faire la belle”, which means to run away and not to make beautiful!

Another similar idiom would be to to take french leave, which describes when a guest leaves a party without informing their hosts.

Google translates this as Pour prendre un congé françaises” which means to take French holidays and we won’t say anything else about the grammar mistake. However, the correct translation is Filer à l’anglaise.

An example of a bad translation from a status update on Facebook by the Bing Translator

Amanda at Spiderworking spotted this one for us using Facebook’s translation with Bing. The Japanese user was discussing Scotland but we’ve no idea what the translation is meant to say correctly.

Do you have any funny examples of mistranslation? We would love to see them. Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.