ES>EN brochure translation

LATER NOTE: the original Spanish and English versions are both online, and Geoff Pullum has established that the translation deviates only slightly from the Google translation, which suggests a native speaker revised the MT.

Geoffrey K. Pullum of Language Log has been given a brochure in Spanglish and wonders how it was created.

bq. When one has finished giggling, and one has noted that The development business is reserved the right to make any change that be necessary, one finds oneself wondering: who on earth could approve English this bafflingly dreadful for publication in a full-color brochure that must have cost thousands of euros, while knowing so little English that they could not see they were signing off on impenetrable gibberish? Why was no one who knew English from long acquaintance brought in to cast an eye over it?

Is it machine translation? It lacks the untranslated words that aren’t in the dictionary, a feature usually associated with this kind of thing.

bq. Could it be pride, an unwillingness to admit to not being adequately fluent in the nascent global language of commerce and the most frequently encountered language spoken by visitors to Spain? (“I speak English,” as the waiter Manuel from Barcelona in the John Cleese “Fawlty Towers” series, proudly and dramatically; “I learn it from a book!”) The frequent uses of “its” for “is” suggest the material above really was typed by someone who thought they knew what they were hearing, and did know various common English words. Or could it be that someone called up a web-accessible translator, typed in the Spanish text, and actually trusted the output to be fit to print, not realizing that the machine translation problem has yet to be solved?

Here’s an example of the use of its for is:

bq. In the south of the Valencian Community, opening step to the Costa Blanca, its found Pilar de la Horadada. Its coastal seaboard of more than 4Km.,its spring climate during all the year an the behavior of its peoples do of this municipality a privileged place to pass some unforgettable holidays.

All I can speculate is that it was probably done by a human being, or else a machine translation was done and a secretary asked to type it up. If I knew more Spanish, I might make a better guess.

4 thoughts on “ES>EN brochure translation

  1. Margaret,

    Probably done by a human. The worst translations are. We frequently see this with our own customers. For example, if we’re translating annual/interim reports, we check their English website to see if there’s anything useful there. The website is often so bad (even for prominent corporations) that we ask who did it. A well-known translation agency, they tell us. Plus Frau ABC in the marketing department who is “fluent in English”. Yeah, right.

  2. Robin: I agree it’s probably by a human. Just how bad that human was is indicated in my single quote (the original is quoted at great length), where it says ‘do of this municipality’ instead of ‘make of this municipality’. Many humans with poor English would at least be able to avoid this one. But there just aren’t enough clues for MT.

  3. It’s completely intelligble, though but, and not even all that tiring to parse.

    For corporate stuff this would be bad for all the corporate reasons, but for marketing to yer actual punters it’s as endearing as offputting – can we rule out a backstage mastermind engaging in viral marketing?

  4. I do think that these texts are often fairly messy in the original, and highly unsuited to translating, whether human or machine. It is almost a found poem, of course. I particularly like the ‘pumbing’.

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