Could machine translations cause offense?

It seems that there is never a dull moment in politics these days. Bad translations just keep on stirring the pot.

There could be worse things to have happen than to refer to Russia as “Mordor,” as in the evil kingdom in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. However, it is definitely not politically correct to call one of Russia’s top officials a “sad little horse.”

There is no doubt that it can be entertaining for some to have words or gestures in different languages translated incorrectly, but it is generally in poor taste and insensitive.

You could use a machine translation, such as Google Translate, for your unofficial translations. It’s important to remember, though, that you could be repeating something entirely different than what you meant to say. How embarrassing!

So far, at least Google Translate has been very quick to correct any offensive translations when they find out about them.

Ultimately, if you have an official translation that needs to be done, the best way to have it done correctly is to hire a native, certified and trained linguist in the target language. Then, have a trained linguist proofread it. This is the ideal way to get a translation done correctly.

Experience and accuracy are crucial steps in making sure that a scandalous situation is avoided and you get the quality and the correct context you are striving for.

These are obviously not the only errors to be made when translating from one language to another. There are no guarantees when it comes to machine translating. There will be words machine translated so poorly that your reader cannot understand the text at all.

Sadly, a computer program cannot always pick up on your desired intent. Especially when there are two words in the language that are spelled exactly the same but have different meanings. How can the machine know which definition to pick?

When your message is important, it is much better to have a professionally certified linguist translate it for you.

Let us know about your experiences with machine translations.