Top 10 Biggest Auto-Translate Fails

Machine translation is a developing technology, but it’s still got a long way to go. Automatic translations are notorious for errors, missing context, and other oddities.

Here’s a roundup of the internet’s funniest auto-translate fails from the past few years.

The Internet’s Weirdest Auto-Translate Mistakes

These off-the-wall mistranslations might make it hard to trust Google Translate ever again.

1. In Denmark, kids are 8, going on 80.

(Credit: @danishmunk)

Auto-translate thought an octogenarian was an 8-year-old (ottearige). A mere 72 years’ worth of difference!


2. When there’s a rejuvenating skin serum for your business (en francais):

(Credit: @MadameChatty)

This hyaluronic acid serum was supposed to “hydrate, lift, and firm” your skin. But auto-translate must’ve assumed that French-speaking beauty gurus should “lift, hydrate, and business” their skin instead.


3. When a multilingual clothing care label got weird about ironing instructions:

(Credit: @Knightyan)

The label was supposed to say “cool iron,” but the translation was “hierro chulo.” Somehow, this “hierro” (iron) was for a “chulo” only. We’re not gonna translate that one at work, but feel free to Google it on your own time.


4. When a Mexican restaurant had chips, guac, and…🐓⛰️

instagram auto translate fail

(Credit: @adventurene)

When an Instagrammer spotted “pico de gallo”  (a chopped salsa with fresh tomato and onion) on a menu, he was surprised to see it auto-translated to “rooster peak.” That doesn’t sound quite as delicious on pork flautas.


5. When German consumers were falsely accused of over-buying hamsters:

(Credit: @usymmons)

In a news article about food shortages, auto-translate discouraged Germans from “buying hamsters.” In reality, Germany was short on flour and oil—not cute rodents. To be fair, the German word for panic-buying is Hamsterkäufe, so we understand the confusion.


6. When a Swedish medical translation went wrong:

(Credit: @CaretoTranslate)

Google Translate can help doctors transcend the language barrier, but it’s not always accurate enough. When plugging in a medical question into Google Translate (“Do you gag easily?), the results got weird: “Do you bend easily?”


7. When the recently deceased were a bit too…warm?

twitter auto-translate fails japanese

(Credit: @elkentaro)

In a serious tweet about an increase in deaths in Japan, auto-translate got confused about “increasing body temperature of the dead.


8: When a mistranslated Israeli road sign was inadvertently accurate:

(Credit: @JessicaMontell)

In Jerusalem, this sign warned drivers and pedestrians about potholes, but the translation said something entirely different. Paying attention to “ignorance on the road” seems like a genuinely good idea, even if it’s a mistranslation.


9: When IKEA Bahrain forgot to translate their English tagline:

(Credit: @FlirtingKaapi)

For some reason, auto-translate thought the IKEA tagline,”Create your perfect night’s sleep,” should say “Same text, but in Arabic.” IKEA’s marketers eventually corrected the error, but not before the mistake went viral.


10: When Google tried to auto-translate a DNA sequence into Somali:

(Credit: @Zannah_du)

Google incorrectly assumed that a genetic sequence of G, A, T, and C was written in the Somali language, so it tried to auto-translate it. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.


How to Avoid Auto-Translate Fails

So, what’s the moral of this top 10 list? Even with the latest advances in machine learning, auto-translate tools can’t replicate the work of professional human translators. If you need to translate something important, it pays to invest in a trusted translation management system (TMS) that integrates with skilled translators and language service providers (LSPs).

Localize is a full-service TMS with high-quality, accurate translation in dozens of language pairs. Our platform makes it easy to manage translations and always keeps your content up-to-date. We combine machine translation with human post-editing to ensure you get accurate results every time.

To learn more about how we help top brands like Cisco and Microsoft manage their international content, contact us anytime!

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