Translation Woes

Naive Israeli journalist trusts Babelfish to translate his questions, intended for the Dutch foreign minister, from Hebrew into Dutch. Those of us who are familiar with machine translation can anticipate the results. To skip to the end of the story:

The Dutch Foreign Ministry is considering canceling the entire trip and filling a formal complaint over the incident. The journalists, meanwhile, said that they were currently too embarrassed to continue with the planned visit.

I laugh in Babelfish’s general direction.

“Helloh bud, Enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian, and on relational Israel Holland,” began the e-mail. It continued with five nearly incomprehensible questions, and several other mentions of “mother.”

“How could this e-mail possibly have been sent? These journalists have sparked a major, major incident,” said an official from Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “Sure he can’t understand many of the questions, because the English is so bad. But he is being asked about the sleeping arrangements of his mother!”

Real, human translators aren’t going anywhere! You’re going to have to keep paying us for years to come.


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