A Spanish reader of this blog whose English is just so-so wrote me to complain about the horrible grammar & wording I used on my blog. Now, that was a real head-scratcher, but a few mails back & forth (in Spanish) clarified the issue. As this person was not very good in English, he had used some machine translation tools, and the results were really funny. For starters, my post about how To Be Smart and Rank #1 Locally was translated into “Be Smart and Fetid #1 Locally”.

I post here the link for those of you who speak Spanish, so as to enjoy the “original” translation that made my blog become Fetid #1. I almost choked on the “fetid”, but could only roar with laughter when I saw that “the fact that one scores #1 in google.com” became “that fact scratches #1 in google.com”, unaware that I had scratched the mighty Google. Oh, and the fact that I said it was wrong to assume that the world turned around Google was changed to say that it was an injustice!

Now, after I finished laughing I started wondering whether this was perhaps a mistake, so I tried the machine translation out on my last post. You can see the results below. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, I’ve highlighted the biggest mistakes in this part of the text.

SEO Translator as seen with machine translation

Funny machine translation of the SEO translator site

And now with the marked sentences:

1. “Be smart and rank #1 locally” becomes “Be smart and Fetid #1 locally“. It doesn’t somehow sound very good as a marketing slogan.

2. “Recent posts” becomes “Posts” (but wooden ones, mind you!). I though that I wrote on this blog, but apparently I’m also a carpenter.

3. “Twitter” becomes “chirping“. Ok, I understand how this came about, but I strongly doubt that Spanish-speakers will understand what those birds are chirping about.

4. “People search all the time for something on the Internet” becomes a curious Spanish construct that becomes difficult to translate, but more or less means that “People search all the time for some purpose on the Internet“. What mysterious purpose that is I cannot say, even though I was supposed to have said that.

5. “Twitter (not on the previous list) claims 19 billion searches per month, or 800 million searches per day.” becomes something like “Chirping (not on the previous list) claims 19 thousand million searches per month, not 800 millions of searches per day.” Well, at least it converted the billions correctly, but I wonder why it disagrees with my calculation per day?

6. “Long tail keywords” became suddenly “Long Coke keywords“. “Cola” (in uppercase) is the Spanish slang for “Coke” (from “Coca Cola”). When it states that it is “de Cola” it actually states that they are made out of Coke. Must be really an interesting manufacturing process.

7. The “competition is fierce” became “the competition is violent“. We’ll have to call in the police to rein in the competition, I’m afraid…

8. “And that is where long tail keywords come in.” became almost offensive: “The keywords enter there long by their tail“. Not sure what that means, but it sounds like not suited for minors…

9. “Curiously enough” became quite inoffensively “Curiously sufficient“. You could almost sympathize.

10. And, finally, “affiliate marketing” became “become affiliate to backlinks“, which probably is some marketing slogan from a SEO expert (not me, I assure you)

There is more, of course. I tried some other languages, and I got similar quality translations. If you speak a foreign language, I invite you to perform some tests and inform me about the results, it can’t get much worse than “stinky”. But it certainly shows the danger that people are facing by not localizing their websites themselves, and trusting that people will use some on-line translation tool to get the meaning across. Specially for a business, this kind of machine translation can have quite an impact – in the wrong direction, I mean. Specially if the translation calls you “Fetid” or “stinky”.

Finally, I must apologize with tears in my eyes: I NEVER intended to recommend to be the Fetid #1 Locally! And yes, the tears are of laughter…. :)

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