The Edit911 Blog

When online translators go horribly (and hilariously) wrong

Online translators can come in handy when you need to translate something on the fly. Automatic or machine translation is a quick and cheap alternative to time-consuming manual translation with a bilingual dictionary or a professional translation service. Automatic translators work on a word-by-word basis, which can be useful when you need to get the gist. But they run into problems when there is more than one possible translation for a word, since they obviously cannot ‘understand’ any context that may be crucial to choosing the right one. In these cases, the online translator gives the most common translation (usually the literal meaning of the word), which may or may not make any sense.

Another pitfall is grammatical accuracy. When translating between languages with different ways of structuring sentences, the word-by-word process may simply produce ungrammatical strings of words. These kinds of online translator fails can be found all over the Internet where people poke fun at just how wrong automatic translation can go.

One truly epic fail was the automatic translation from Italian to English of the biographies of all the ministers in the Italian government that appeared on the official website. At the time, the episode was reported by a major Italian newspaper, which also gleefully pointed out the ironic contrast with that government’s promise to boost the “three I’s” in education: Inglese, Internet e Impresa (English, Internet, Enterprise). Here are some of the best bloopers:

• The Italian “Nato a” at the beginning of each bio was mysteriously transformed into “Been born in”, rather than simply “Born in”. Unfortunately, all the ministers’ bios began in the same totally ungrammatical way.

• “Coniugato e con due figli” became “Conjugated and it has two daughters”. In addition to its grammatical meaning, “coniugato” also means “married” in Italian. The poor man was also reduced to an “it” rather than a “he”. Both of these fails were repeated in the ministers’ bios, men and women alike.

• “Ministro dell’Interno” (Minister of the Interior) became “Minister of the Inside”.

• “Ministro dell’Ambiente” (Minister of the Environment) became “Minister of the Atmosphere”.

• “Il portavoce del Presidente” (spokesperson for the President) became “the megaphone of the President”.

• One minister graduated from “Mouthfuls University”. The university in question is Università Bocconi, founded by Ferdinando Bocconi and one of the most prestigious academic institutions in Italy. The word “boccone” in Italian means “mouthful”. “Bocconi” is the plural form, so the automatic translator actually did get that right!

• The Minister of Education found herself with a new first name when “Letizia” was translated into “Joy”.

• A minister was regrettably described as having once been an “Ordinary University Professor”. In the Italian higher education system, the highest level of professorship is “Professore Ordinario”, corresponding to Full Professor.

• As a young man, a minister was a member of the political activist group called “Fronte della Gioventù”, which became the “Forehead of Youth”, rather than the Youth Front. “Fronte” also means “forehead” in Italian.

• The political party “Lega Nord” of one minister became the “Alloy North”, rather than the Northern League.

• A minister’s illustrious mentor’s first and last names were translated from “Augusto Del Noce” to “August Of The Nut” (note the carefully maintained capitalization). “Noce” does, in fact, mean “nut”, so a perfectly logical choice in the ‘mind’ of the automatic translator, even at the risk of offending Mr. Del Noce’s mother.

• The city and province of birth of one minister, Cassano Magnago (VA), where VA is the official abbreviation for the province of Varese, became Cassano Magnago (GOES). After all, “va” is the third person singular form of the irregular Italian verb “andare”, so why not translate that too into its English counterpart “goes”? (in all caps, of course!)

Once the blunder was discovered, the government quickly removed the embarrassing translations and got them done properly. The government also replied to the newspaper that the bios were trial runs with an automatic translator and not intended for publication, and that ‘someone’ had gotten into the system and made them public.

If English isn’t your first language, it’s a great idea to stay away from free online translation software. It still has a long way to go. Even if you use a professional translation service, it’s also a great idea to get a second pair of eyes on your translated copy to make sure your translator did a good job. We offer ESL (English as a second language) editing services here at Edit911, and guarantee your copy will read like a native English speaker when we’re done. Too bad the Italian government didn’t hire us 🙂

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Stephen King, IT, and The Neighbors From Hell

Stephen King is in the spotlight again. The writer, who turns 70 today (Sept. 21), has a remake of his classic horror novel ‘IT’ in theaters (and it’s getting great reviews!).

For someone who writes such creative and nightmare-inducing tales, King’s day-to-day life is surprisingly quiet and mundane – he splits his time between Bangor, Maine and Sarasota, Florida. King does like some noise when he’s writing; he cranks up the volume on local rock station WKIT (which he owns). But when his writing is done for the day, he likes to kick back and relax.

Photo credit: Betsy Brown

The King house in Bangor is a rambling Victorian mansion that is famous locally for the wrought-iron fence that surrounds the property, parts of which have been used to form the shapes of bats, dragons, and other scary creatures. The house is situated on the west side of town, in a residential neighborhood that is peaceful and quiet – usually.

But a few years ago, the Kings acquired the neighbors from hell. The new additions made noise at all hours, failed to keep up the property, and began doing sheet-metal work in the back yard.

The noise and odor came to be more than the Kings could bear. King called a local realtor. “Go see those people next door,” he said. “Tell them that someone in town is interested in acquiring the property, even though there’s no “For Sale” sign out. But for God’s sake, don’t tell them it’s me, or their asking price will go through the roof.”

The realtor complied with King’s request and paid a visit to the neighbors from hell, saying that an individual who preferred to remain nameless was interested in the property. The man looked at the realtor and grinned. “You tell King that if he wants this place, he can have it – for one million bucks.”

The realtor called King with the bad news. “He knows it’s you, Steve, and won’t sell for less than a million dollars. Sorry the plan didn’t work.”

But the realtor had underestimated just how much Stephen King disliked his noisy neighbors. After a few seconds’ silence, he said, “Tell the bastard he’s got a deal.”

So, King became the proud owner of the house next door. He had it renovated extensively, inside and out. The Kings use it now as a guest house – as long as their visitors promise not to do any sheet metal work during their stay.

 

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Non-Fiction Audiobooks For Summer Listening

Summer is in full swing and we’ve been doing a good deal of audiobook listening, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here on the blog! Perfect for work commutes, road trips, or listening by the pool – we hope you enjoy!

Pro tip! When listening on Audible, the speed up settings are your best friend. I usually start with just 1.5x speed, but then by the middle of the book work my way up to 2x and above for way faster listening, once my brain adjusts. When you slow it down to normal speed after listening at the increased speeds it literally feels like you’re listening to a sloth talk.

 

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

Time: 13 hrs and 23 mins

Summary: 

In the spirit of Steve Jobs and MoneyballElon Musk is both an illuminating and authorized look at the extraordinary life of one of Silicon Valley’s most exciting, unpredictable, and ambitious entrepreneurs – a real-life Tony Stark – and a fascinating exploration of the renewal of American invention and its new makers.

Elon Musk spotlights the technology and vision of Elon Musk, the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity, who sold one of his Internet companies, PayPal, for $1.5 billion. Ashlee Vance captures the full spectacle and arc of the genius’ life and work, from his tumultuous upbringing in South Africa and flight to the United States to his dramatic technical innovations and entrepreneurial pursuits.

 

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson

Length: 17 hrs and 55 mins

Summary:

Based on 15 years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson present extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

  • China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?
  • Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?
  • What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world.

 

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

Length: 17 hrs and 48 mins

Summary:

If you’re like me, this topic didn’t seem all that interesting at first. Within 30 minutes, I was astounded at how much the information in this book directly applied to my life in ways I’d never even thought about. It was unbelievably eye-opening and fascinating!

Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt”, “sin”, and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it.

 

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin

Length: 7 hrs and 55 mins

Summary:

Josh Waitzkin knows what it means to be at the top of his game. A public figure since winning his first National Chess Championship at the age of nine, Waitzkin was catapulted into a media whirlwind as a teenager when his father’s book Searching for Bobby Fischer was made into a major motion picture. After dominating the scholastic chess world for ten years, Waitzkin expanded his horizons, taking on the martial art Tai Chi Chuan and ultimately earning the title of World Champion. How was he able to reach the pinnacle of two disciplines that on the surface seem so different? “I’ve come to realize that what I am best at is not Tai Chi, and it is not chess,” he says. “What I am best at is the art of learning.”

 

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Length: 18 hrs and 16 mins

Summary:

Not just for fans of the “The Boss”, this book is a beautiful rags-to-riches story of the other American Dream: becoming a Rock Star.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to this audio the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs. He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination, leading up to the moment he refers to as “The Big Bang”: seeing Elvis Presley’s debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar-band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.

 

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Length: 14 hrs and 54 mins

Summary:

Over the past century, humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but as Harari explains in his trademark style – thorough yet riveting – famine, plague, and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists, and criminals put together. The average American is 1,000 times more likely to die from binging at McDonalds than from being blown up by Al Qaeda.

What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet Earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake? Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams, and nightmares that will shape the 21st century – from overcoming death to creating artificial life. It asks the fundamental questions: Where do we go from here? And how will we protect this fragile world from our own destructive powers? This is the next stage of evolution. This is Homo Deus.

 

The Virgin Way: Everything I Know about Leadership by Sir Richard Branson

Length: 11 hrs and 29 mins

Summary: 

While building the Virgin Group over 40 years, Richard Branson has never shied away from seemingly outlandish challenges that others (including his own colleagues on several occasions) considered sheer lunacy. He has taken on giants like British Airways and won, and monsters like Coca-Cola and lost.

Now Branson gives an inside look at his strikingly different swashbuckling style of leadership. Learn how fun, family, passion, and the dying art of listening are key components to what his extended family of employees around the world has always dubbed (with a wink) the “Virgin Way.”

This unique perspective comes from a man who dropped out of school at 16, suffers from dyslexia, and has never worked for anyone but himself. He may be famous for thinking outside the box – an expression he despises – but Branson asserts that “you’ll never have to think outside the box if you refuse to let anyone build one around you.”

 

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Featured Client: Dale M. Nelson, The Bad Shepard

book cover the bad shepherd dale m. nelsonHere at Edit911 we had the great pleasure of editing Dale Nelson’s intriguing first novel. Cops, drugs, music, L.A. in the ‘80’s…it’s a fast paced, fun and unpredictable read. Frankly, it did not need much editing since Dale’s knows his subject matter and is such a talented writer. We just suggested a bit more character and plot development here and there.

Dale explained why he came to Edit911 for our editing services: “I know the value of a good editor and knew that’s what I needed to make my novel the best it could be. Marc was fantastic to work with, very responsive and collaborative. The editor clearly understood my vision for the story and its genre. They helped me fix some issues and made great recommendations for a few improvements. It was a great collaboration and I’d work with them again.”

Dale M. Nelson is a graduate of the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications and former United States Air Force officer. He currently lives in Washington D.C. with his wife, daughter and an Australian Shepherd who thinks she’s the boss of him.

“The Bad Shepherd” is available for sale on Amazon.

author writer Dale M. Nelson

Dale’s website: https://about.me/dalenelson
Dale’s Twitter: @dalenelson2

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