Why Does Google Translate Produce Such Funny Texts?

Machine translation so far does not deliver satisfying results for texts that must evoke a certain emotional effect in the reader, such as marketing collateral, websites, brochures, product descriptions, and so on. Not to mention works of art or literature.

The reason is that we still don’t fully understand how our brains work and language appears to be one of the most sophisticated inventions of the human mind.

In highly specialized technical fields, such as aerospace or other technical documentation, contracts and formalized legal texts, or some medical types of documents automatic translation requires a considerable amount of preparation, both of the source text and the terminology used. The reason is that a limited set of words and meanings must be set up in order to render terms unambiguous. Usually, the upfront effort to establish such an approved terminology by far exceeds the costs of conventional translation. Such endeavors only pay when the text volume to be handled is in excess of billions of words. Therefore, most business-critical translations are still done by human translators, sometimes with the help of comparably simple translation memory tools.

For private purposes, for example, when you want to read the Greek website of your summer holiday accomodation, feel free to use Google Translate any time (or any other machine translation tool, for that matter). As a side benefit, you will probably get a good laugh for free!

However, when it comes to “official” texts, such as websites, handling instructions or image brochures, it is better to let a human translator do the job.

mind the machines


One Response to “Why Does Google Translate Produce Such Funny Texts?”

  1. Joey Beckh Says:

    …and mind the machines 😉

    Merry X-Mas and Happy New Year…

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