Why translators do it better than machines…


As I’ve already mentioned earlier, then machine translation tools such as Bing and Google Translate are only good to some extend – when it comes to translating “important” text, then a professional translator is the better solution.

A machine doesn’t take other factors into consideration, such as context and cultural habits, it only looks at the text as words – although lately it has been improved, so it’s able to recognize some sentences. But if you have no pre-knowledge of the language, which you translate into, then you have no clue, whether it’s slightly correct or of the chart!

Just today I was going through my updates on Facebook – when I came across an update from a friend  – it was written in Greek -which I don’t understand. I naturally clicked on Bing Translate  to see, what it was about. However, this did not help me – only one word got translated into Danish (being the only word in English in that sentence – which I did understand)

Example of a machine translation from Greek in Danish. XXX refers to a name, which I left out:

 Before: “XXX sorry pou to leo dimosios alla sas dialisame sto basket prohtes, isos na ferete kai enan trito stin omada tin epomeni fora”

After: “XXX ked pou til leo dimosios alla sas dialisame sto kurv prohtes, ISO’er na ferrette kai enan trito stin omada tin epomeni for en”

In this case, I think both Bing and Google translate struggle, because the Greek text is written with the Latin alphabet, and is thereby not recognizable to the machine.

Just because I’m a translator, it doesn’t mean I don’t use Google or Bing’s machine translation tools. Like the above mentioned example shows, then I use it to understand some of my friend’s updates on Facebook. As I have friends from all over the world, who speak many different languages, it doesn’t mean I speak them all. Then a quick click on “translate this” is mostly helpful to get an idea of the content of the update.

Professional freelancer or a translation agency

If you are looking for good quality translations and can’t find a good freelance translator, then it might be worth asking a translation agency, as they often has a bigger network of translators and only works with experienced translators.

When you only need to have your text translated into one or two languages, then by all means find an experienced translator to handle it – but if you have multiple languages, then it might be worth while looking for an agency that can handle them all simultaneously – this might not save you money, but a lot of administration time.

If you are looking for a translation agency that handles 50+ languages I would recommend All-in Translations.



Igaming language

For the past one and a half year, I’ve been doing translations within the igaming industry. This has given me a great insight in and knowledge of the world of igaming, games and sports. However, it has also made me a bit of a nerd, when it comes to finding/seeing translation mistakes, as it can be quite amusing to see other’s mistakes.

Typical mistakes

The typical mistakes that you see in both slots, letters, promotions and on the website are mistakes in stock phrases, words that are used in a wrong context, word division and wrong sentences order. These mistakes often occur, because the sender uses non-native speakers of the target language or persons that do not have good linguistic knowledge of languages to translate the text.

I some cases it might also be machine translations – which I’d only recommend you use, in case you find yourself facing some text that are written in a language foreign to you and you need to get a quick overview of the content. Don’t use it as a cheap solution to get your text or homepage translated for professional purposes.

Image is everything

When communication to your target audience always remember, that the small details counts towards the big picture. It’s not always good enough to have the latest and most beautiful slots or graphic. When sending e-mails about term & conditions, promotions and offers it’s always good to makes sure that the above mentioned mistakes do not occur (stock phrases, context, word division, sentence order).

Mistakes in the games

The two images attached show examples of word division and words used in wrong content, respectively. The images are examples of translations from English to Danish.

Fruity Friends_orddelingIn the first image you see the word “Gevinstoversigt” (Pay table) – here divided ‘Gevinstov-ersigt’, which isn’t correct and makes it harder for the reader to understand – it should have been divided ‘Gevinst-oversigt’. A mistake that could have been avoided, if the slot itself was proofed after the translated terms had been adapted to the Danish version.

Drej vs spil

The mistake in the second image is the word “Drej” (turn) – it could be argued that the word is actually okay here, seen as the wheels do turn. However, the more common used term in Danish is “Spil” (play) or the adopted English term “Spin”, which are the two I would go for.

I also question the translation “Indsats En” (Bet One) – as this is an unnatural word combination in Danish – instead I’d suggest; “Sats én”.

Written language

When it comes to communicating to the target audience, it is also very important to make sure that the written language is fluent; without wrong stock phrases, spelling mistakes and wrong sentence order. The receiver might perceive this as unprofessional or as a scam. I would most certainly think twice before depositing any money.

Native speakers

If possible, get a native speaker of the target language to translate or at least to proof your text. This way you avoid stupid or embarrassing mistakes, which in some cases can damage your image. See also my post on translations gone wrong.

Native vs. second-language speakers

Native vs. foreign speakers of a languagewordsyoumisusephonicsforkidsandlearningtipsforparents_4dce0b8806f0b_w587

Even as a native we make mistakes in our own language. Some words are just meant to give us a bit of trouble. In Danish and English for instance the words “lie/lay” – “ligge/lægge” are know to be common mistakes among even native speakers.

In Denmark it seems to be mainly one part of the country, namely West Jutland, that are having problems setting those two words apart. It seems to me that it has become such a big part of the daily language that it sounds natural to them, whereas it immediately starts an alarm bell in everybody else’s ears.

 Grammar: Native vs. foreign speakers

Another thing that has come to my attention is that if you ask a native about some grammar rules, they, unless they have actually studied languages, can’t explain why it is so! As a language student you need to study and learn a lot of rules in order to master the foreign language more or less fluently.

With exceptions of cause, some people have a flair for learning other languages and seem to, by living in a country for some time, to master it just as well.

But my point being, foreigners often know your native language grammar better than you – because they had to learn it in order to master or understand your language. Inevitably the foreigners are likely to make some mistakes, especially when it comes to idioms, but they will still be able to explain certain rules or reasons that you will not!


Free translations?!

Don’t deny it, at least once you have visited a free translation tool such as Google Translate or Bing (see also my post on translation tools). Even as a professional translator I’ve been there – I often find myself using Google Translate, when I have to figure out what a certain word is called in Greek or what a Greek word means.

However, when it comes to creating a good image or website in multiple languages, then you have to think twice, before using a free translation tool to translate the context.

Good or bad Language?language

First of all, if you want to look professional, then don’t have pages with bad language. By bad language, I refer to incorrect use of words, sentences that don’t make sense to a native and language that obviously has been translated directly or by a machine.

How often have you come across a homepage or email, where the language was so bad, that you immediately lost all trust in the sender because it seemed unprofessional or untrustworthy?

Yes, we all make mistakes, you’ll most certainly also find minor mistakes on my homepage, but there is a difference in how the mistakes come across. If it’s just a few typing errors or general bad language. Even in the newspapers, you can find typing errors. Some people even make a sport of finding errors in papers.

A good image might cost a littleimage

Secondly, if you don’t possess the language skills yourself, get a professional/native to do it or at least proofread it. It might cost a little to get a job well done, but in the end, your image will benefit.

Just have a look at my post on translations gone wrong, I sure hope these mistakes haven’t been made by professional translators! A good translator isn’t one that only knows the language in which they translate between, but also the culture, habits, etc.

Not just a spoken/written language

Thirdly, all professional translators have to go through a wide range of topics in order to earn their degree. It’s not just enough to know the language as such, as already mentioned above. Just to name a few topics; politics, culture, economy (both inland and for companies), law, knowledge of businesses and what is included herein.

By choosing a professional translator you, therefore, get a person, who possesses a wide range of knowledge and who knows, how to acquire the right information/knowledge in order to secure high quality. Many translators specialize within certain topics, either by choice or interest.

That being said, you might also come across some good autodidact translators, who either work within the field of the sought expertise or have a great interest in the subject.

The BIG picturebig picture

Finally, always think about the picture you want to send the receiver. Do you want to compromise quality and get a quick solution that might end up cost a lot more than expected?

Translations gone wrong

Advertisements Gone Wrong In Translation

I recently came across this post on advertisements gone wrong in translation, which I found worrying – Just think about the consequences a translation gone wrong can have, not only meaning-wise, but also image-wise. Read the examples below to see the mistakes, if not only to have a laugh:

  • Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish, where it was read as “Suffer from diarrhoea”.
  • Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into German only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “manure stick”.
  • Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.
  • In Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan “finger-lickin’ good” came out as ” eat your fingers off”.
  • The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem — Feeling Free”, was translated into the Japanese market as “When smoking Salem, you will feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty”.
  • When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside, since most people can’t read English.
  • Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, the name of a notorious porno magazine.
  • An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope’s visit. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el Papa), the shirts read “I saw the potato” (la papa).
  • In Italy, a campaign for Schweppes Tonic Water translated the name into “Schweppes Toilet Water”.
  • Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”, in Chinese.
  • We all know about GM’s Chevy Nova meaning “it won’t go” in Spanish markets, but did you know that Ford had a similar problem in Brazil with the Pinto? Pinto was Brazilian slang for ” tiny male genitals”. Ford renamed the automobile Corcel, meaning “horse”.
  • Hunt-Wesson introduced Big John products in French Canada as Gros Jos. Later they found out that in slang it means “big breasts”.
  • Frank Perdue’s chicken slogan, “it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate”.


  • When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, ” it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”. Instead, the company thought that the word ” embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”.
  • The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as “Ke-kou-ke-la”, meaning “Bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “ko-ou-ko-le”, translating into “happiness in the mouth”.
  • A few years ago, in the American Midwest, some people decided to show off their new “real” Mexican restaurant, named Chi-chi’s to some visiting Californians. Upon seeing the name on the marquis, the Californians started to laugh. When asked why they were laughing, they explained that in Mexican Spanish, “chi-chi’s” literally means “titties.”