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.
No, Google. An ‘octogenarian’ is not the same as an ‘otteårige’ (‘eight-year-old’) 🤦♂️ #googletranslate #googletranslatefail #lostintranslation pic.twitter.com/sdJtqd8UJy
— Christianus Monachus (Christian Munk) (@danishmunk) January 22, 2022
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):
You have to love Google translate,😂😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/6380xGYlbq
— Laure (@MadameChatty) December 5, 2021
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:
"Hierro chulo" 😆🙄#bromas #googletranslatefail pic.twitter.com/58vQfY5Heu
— Knightyan | Working on fic raffle winners material (@Knightyan) April 15, 2022
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…🐓⛰️
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:
Lol. #GoogleTranslateFail of "Hamsterkäufe" (panic buying) #GermanHasAWordForEverything 🐹🤣🐹😂🐹🤣🐹😂 pic.twitter.com/OeTqDrK7ns
— Uschi Symmons (@usymmons) April 1, 2022
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:
Same question, different (faulty) translation 😫 One reason to use a medically verified translation tool instead #googletranslatefail pic.twitter.com/SnJGHXUZDA
— Care to Translate (@CareTranslate) November 22, 2021
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?
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:
Best auto-translate fail EVER. Actual sign in Jerusalem. #FreudianSlip pic.twitter.com/JLzwzVU2vW
— ג'סיקה – جيسيكا – Jessica 🟣 (@JessicaMontell) January 13, 2015
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:
Ikeaaaaa what you doing???
P.S the Arabic copy says, "Same text but in Arabic". pic.twitter.com/B6aiOpQdK0
— Sneha (@FlirtingKaapi) August 20, 2020
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:
"Do you want to translate this DNA sequence from Somali to English?" #googletranslatefail pic.twitter.com/3Lz59Ph7c1
— Zannah Salter (@Zannah_Du) April 25, 2017
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!