careful how you say that! – using language translators

I was just reading the following article from One Year In Mexico {Click Here} about driving in Mexico and the following phrase was the spark for this post – 

Get a Guia Roji, the best road map for Mexico, a Mexican chip for a Garmin GPS (sometimes helpful, sometimes woefully inaccurate) and plan your trip carefully.”

I frequently use an online translator whenever I need to write something in Spanish, and when I am trying to get a better understanding  of something I am trying to read in Spanish.  And like the Garman GPS Mexico Chip, most all translators are  woefully inaccurate.

It’s like Scrabble, or a crossword puzzle, you  have to know enough Spanish to be able to use a Translator to pick out the glaring errors.

First, use the most simple words and phrasing that you can, and never use hyphenated or apostraphied words, and check your spelling

Take the following example:

in English – she went out back to pick cherries

Google Translate – salió de nuevo a recoger cerezas

Bing Translator – ella salió de atrás para recoger cerezas

BabelFish Translator – ella salió de nuevo a cerezas de la selección

each has both accuracies and inaccuracies

salió is the correct word for this phrase

including the ella is also accurate to imply she is the one that went

de nuevo means again which confuses me, unless the translators know that she had already been out back before….

recoger means to gather or harvest and is a good choice, however selección does not fit in this phrasing as it means more like selecting a group or a team.

so you can see in such a simple phrase just how difficult it can be – now just imagine an idiomatic phrase or a technical phrase.

Friends once recounted a story about communicating with an attorney here in Merida while they were in Canada, and they were asking about something that needed to be done this year (en este año), unfortunately they weren’t able to make the tilde over the n and asked, the attorney if he was going to be able to submit some paperwork en este ano, (in this anus).  

So really, you see, you just need to be careful and know enough Spanish, or any language, to see the most obvious and glaring errors.


About Debi in Merida

I moved from Colorado Springs, Colorado USA to Merida, Yucatan, MX in January 2006. I love to read, garden, travel, and hang out with friends.
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2 Responses to careful how you say that! – using language translators

  1. you are correct indeed! colloquialisms, and regional phrasing as well, so many little hurdles. I too continue with wanting to know more. we'll get there – poco a poco

  2. Steve Cotton says:

    Your cherry example highlights one of the big problems in language — colloquialisms. Those of us who are accustomed to two yards often use “out back” to distinguish from the front yard. But, the term does not translate well even for other English users. To my English friends, “back yard” makes no sense. It is the garden — which to Americans is a place for vegetables or flowers.

    Because it is a tool steeped in culture, one language cannot easily be translated into another — and still savor the subtleties. And it is why I want to learn more Spanish.

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