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Translators’ Hall of Shame: Part VII. Halloween Edition
October 24, 2017 - By: - In: Translation - Comments Off on Translators’ Hall of Shame: Part VII. Halloween Edition

You can call us the bad translation zombie hunters.

Like a band of Hollywood zombies, bad translation is still out there roaming the streets. It doesn’t matter if you’ve killed it in your own backyard, like we have with our ISO 9001 processes, our fanatical attention to quality and our error-free guarantee, destructive cases of bad translation just keep popping up around the world. You’ve probably seen them!

Bad translation can wreak havoc on unsuspecting individuals and companies, causing all sorts of viral PR nightmares.

Not on our watch though. Our clients enjoy a permanent bad translation-free zone when we’re around. Yet, we still monitor the bad translation zombie population from afar, ever at the ready with our error-eradication arsenal and our penchant for translation review because, yes, after more than twenty years on the job, the zombies are still out there.

Let’s see what we’re dealing with in our seventh “Hall of Shame” installment, highlighting a couple recent cases of bad translation.

Racist Robots

Some WeChat users found that in different contexts the app’s translation feature translated a neutral term in Chinese meaning “black foreigner” into English as the n-word. Since then, WeChat has apologized and fixed the English translation of the Chinese term to read “black foreigner” in all contexts. But how could this happen?

Machine translation is often trained with large data sets sourced from the internet, which means that it can absorb the worst biases found there. Until humanity improves, human editing and review are essential to keeping machine translation errors and embarrassment at bay. (Another reason why we offer our human-edited machine translation service.)

History on the Loose

A parking facility in Casablanca, Morocco was named in honor of a renowned Renaissance-era Moroccan geographer. The French version used the traditional western nickname “Léon L’Africain,” but the municipality’s Arabic translation literally translated the words instead of using the geographer’s Arabic name.

That turned out to be a big mistake and the translation was widely mocked in Morocco as a case of the municipality not knowing its own history.

You see, a translator needs to fully understand all the nuances of a text before being able to accurately render it into another language. That’s why highly qualified translators and subject matter experts are so key to producing an accurate translation.

Say Good-Bye to Bad Translation This Halloween and Beyond

Have you seen the havoc that bad translation can wreak?

Responsive Translation battles translation errors every day of the year with our squad of expert linguists and the superhero-grade error-eradication arsenal at our fingertips. For more than twenty years, we’ve been providing quality translation, interpreting, review and other foreign-language services.

That’s right. No matter what industry you’re in, no one gets a bad translation on our watch. Contact us now at 212-355-4455 ext 208 or

Happy Halloween!

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