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.
— 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:
— Knightyan | AO3 Writer | Comms OPEN (@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:
— 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:
— 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:
— 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:
— 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!