Tell-tale signs that you have used automated translation

The only benefit of automatic translation is exactly that, it’s automatic. And even though it’s free, those who use it pay a very high price. Nevertheless, some still consider it as a good alternative to the professional services provided by a translation agency. But, as our elders usually say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch and the use of automated translation always results in unfortunate mistakes and embarrassing results. As we have said in previous posts, automatic translation tools have no sensitivity, nor imagination, nor any of the intrinsically human characteristics and we can find signs in these texts that give them away. We present you with some examples below.


Gastronomic translation is one of the most affected by the use and abuse of automatic translation tools. We don’t know exactly why, maybe some people wrongly believe that restaurant menus are second-class texts and, for that reason, it’s not worth investing in the services of translation company. However, the number of blunders made by this kind of tool is infinite. The translation of prepositions is one of the obvious signs that the text has been handled by the Frankenstein of translation. The translation of sepia a la plancha as “sepia to the iron” is sadly notorious. Iron, in the same nominal phrase would also be another example of its prowess. In Okodia´s blog, we talked a lot about the linguistic abuse suffered by gastronomic translation.

Proper nouns and mistakes in the original text are among some of the tell-tale signs of automated translation. Tweet!

Proper nouns, that do not need translation, are usually a give-away that Google translate or other such tools have been used. Professional translators would never translate Arthur More as Arthur Más – to remind us of one of the first linguistic blunders that automatic translation presented us with–, and please be aware that proper names of people and place in the terrific soap operas, with a few exceptions, do not need translating either.


Automatic translation neither detects possible errors in the original text and consequently, doesn’t correct them. Not so long ago, in an advert for a forthcoming a concert of a well-known Spanish singer, whose first name had been translated into Catalan as Allunyant. It seems that, in the original text the name was misspelled and appears (Alejando, instead of Alejandro) and this gerund –“ando” in Spanish is the same as “ing” in English– hence, became the star of the show.


Other clues that expose the use of Google translate and its minions is the translation of polysemous words, as no machine has sufficient criteria to distinguish between the appropriate meanings within different contexts. In other words, they lack tools for the translation of polysemous words.


Google translate will also be lost when facing the danger of so-called untranslatable words that exist in all languages and are challenges fit for professional translators only, because automated translators lack talent, among many other things.


Only translation agency professionals know how to successfully resolve all of these cases and avoid disasters and linguistic aberrations such as the ones shown in this other post.


We’ve talked about some of the most obvious signs that expose the use of automatic translation in texts, but there are certainly many more. Can you think of any other signs? We would love you to share them with us. All of these examples do nothing more than confirm what we already know: we have created a monster!