“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” ― Will Rogers
Bad Translation and weak quality control aren’t just bad form, they’re also expensive, embarrassing and dangerous. For the latest installment in the ongoing saga of bad translation, let’s take a closer look at three of the most recent translation fails from both sides of the Atlantic.
French Medal Mix Up Reveals Bad Sportsmanship
Winners of the 2018 Ontario Winter Games received bilingual French-English medals to celebrate their achievement at the Olympics-style event for teen athletes. However, it wasn’t all fun and games in Canada when it was discovered that the French version of the athletes’ oath was not correct.
The word “teams” had been omitted and the word “sport” was missing a letter. The man in charge of the Games, Michael Ladouceur, was particularly embarrassed, as he had grown up in the French community.
Organizers are still deciding whether to replace all 1,600 medals awarded at the event or just the medals that were awarded to athletes for whom a proper French version is important. Hopefully they’ve learned that for any translation, adequate proofreading and quality control are just good sportsmanship.
Denmark’s Interpreters Not Up to Scratch, Recommend Drinking Olive Oil
A patient in Denmark drank Olive Oil, which gave them diarrhea, because an interpreter inaccurately translated the dietary plan they were prescribed. Unfortunately, this is just one example from a recent report by Denmark’s national audit agency.
The report revealed that there aren’t enough government-employed Danish Interpreters in public sectors like health and the criminal justice system, but also that some of the interpreters aren’t qualified or aren’t doing a good job. See the olive oil example above. This poses real risks to patients and the public, as well as the Danish state who must bear higher costs like rescheduling court hearings when interpreters don’t turn up or additional health care when patients get sicker.
The bottom line: Many people’s lives and liberty depend on having enough qualified interpreters, and not just in Denmark.
YouTube Turns Polish Leader’s Denial Into Admission of Guilt
Automatic translation struck again, muddying the waters of a delicate situation in Poland.
The Central European country passed a law designed to punish people who publicly say that Poland is responsible for Nazi crimes on Polish soil with fines or up to three years in prison. Why? Bloomberg reports that Poles say they are tired of being considered complicit in Nazi war crimes. However, the US and Israel don’t agree with Poland’s new law; Israel considers it Holocaust denial and the US a threat to free speech.
Against that background, Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, gave a Polish-language speech defending the law and said that the Nazi death camps in Poland where millions of Jews were murdered were not Polish. However, YouTube’s English-language captions said the opposite, that the camps were Polish, turning the Prime Minister’s intentions on their head.
YouTube has since apologized for the translation error and the Prime Minister’s office released an English-language version of the speech.
Once again this goes to show why machine translation shouldn’t be left to its own devices. Competent human editors are still sorely needed to ensure that the right message is getting across.
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