They say any publicity is good publicity, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for these. What continues to take the biggest hit is Google for its translation tool. Google Translate is advanced, especially for the majority of free translation tools. The problem doesn’t arise from the lack of work that is being put into the tool and others like it, it’s more that languages are so intricate, complex and at the same time delicate that it needs the human touch which created them when translating.

Recently, though, it seems that Google is getting the blame for a myriad of errors. We have always iterated that you cannot trust Google Translate – or any other online tool for that matter. Perhaps, then, the blame shouldn’t fall on the tool but more the expectations of its user.

That being said, as we hear ‘why can’t we just use Google Translate?’ quite often, there are plenty of embarrassing errors that can you avoid because you cannot rely or trust free translation tools, as we told The Guardian. Here are 5 massive failures by Google Translate – and there are a lot more out there.

Confused Gandalf ends up in Russia instead of Mordor

Confused Gandalf ends up in Russia instead of Mordor

Mordor

Yesterday, BBC News posted about a bug in the online tool that would translate Russian Federation into Mordor. In case you’re unaware, Mordor is a shadowy place in the fictional land of Middle Earth from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings literary series.

Also, when translating from Ukranian into Russian, it changed Russians into occupiers that is uncomfortable for many reasons.

Sad Little Horse

It gets worse. As if Mordor wasn’t enough, it also translated the surname of Russia’s Foreign Minister into ‘sad little horse’.

I’m sure Sergey Lavrov had more than a long face when he found that out.

A What Food Festival?!

The Galician food festival celebrating ‘grelo’, a leafy green vegetable that is typical of the region’s cultural cuisine, suffered a rather graphic mistranslation.

When translating from Galician, a regional dialect of Spanish, the town used Google Translate to put their leaflets into Castilian Spanish but in doing so, the festival went from a celebration of the leafy vegetable ‘grelo’ to ‘clítoris’. A different kind of food festival that you can’t help but wonder if it’s an all-you-can-eat…

Bel-Air Ain’t the Same

What happens when you take a famous theme song that is recognisable to the majority of people, put it through 64 languages and try to sing it? Not a brand blunder but an interesting experiment in the complexities of language.

As you can see, the switch between Mandarin is clunky and awkward but quite impressive for a free tool – then again, it’s just reversing its own algorithm so there is no way to confirm how good the Mandarin translation without proofing. After going through all 64 languages, one of the world’s most famous songs bares zero resemblance to the pop culture staple.

German Google Translate

Google Translate’s Homophobic Fiasco

This was a personal fiasco by the company’s translation service which offered other offensive definitions when translating the word gay. The company offered up ‘fairy’, ‘faggot’, ‘poof’ and ‘queen’ as possible definitions and variants on the word.

The company, though, must be defended as they are openly progressive and deserve no ill-will or abuse from this. As they pointed out in their statement at the time: ‘Our systems produce translations automatically based on existing on the web’. It says more about people on the internet than the tool’s intricate system if they continue to use hateful slurs as a substitution.

There are a lot more. Even typing it into the search bar suggests the words ‘fails’ as it has become so common. That is why free translation tools and even our own machine translation, the most technical and intricate of its kind thanks to CAT tools and translation memory, is best when having a human translator to clean it up in post-editing.

Although we rely on Google for a lot – to find out where to go, the best shops around and even to finish our sentences – language is far too complex and idiosyncratic to avoid creating glaring errors like the ones above.

To find out more about commercial translation services, have a look at a list of our high-quality multilingual services that we can tailor to your needs.

by Ashley Norris

Content and Social Media Executive at Wolfestone. Ashley Norris is a professional writer in various forms, a First Class film graduate from Aberystwyth University and an experienced digital marketer. Despite his young age, Ashley has been working in digital marketing since its inception into the mainstream, acquiring years of experience inadvertently on social media platforms - a powerful marketing tool. Since working at Wolfestone, Ashley has explored his content writing skills, fully learnt SEO (even its multilingual benefits), practised graphic design on Adobe packages and continues to do video production to continue on from his degree.