I have just being doing a bit of blog admin, and clicked on one of the search engine items used to find my site.

To my horror, it opened up in the Google browser, and my blog had been translated into a mangled mess of what might be construed as Brazilian Portuguese in some weird sci-fi movie featuring slimy luminescent green creatures with eight arms on the hunt for zombies of diverse origin.

I love all the Brazilians I have met. I love the Portuguese language, which I translate for a living into English. My incomplete knowledge of Portuguese (as used in mainland Portugal), however, tells me that my blog is transformed into something hideous by Google Translate. God only knows what happens if the target language is set to German or French. I am too chicken to look!

One day, I may feel confident enough to write posts in Portuguese. For the moment, though, I write in English because this is the language I know best. Sometimes, I think the way I say things is just as important as what I say. Machines cannot tell the difference.

I suppose it takes a good translator to know that word for word translations are very rarely successful.  And that the use in English of the present continuous tense does not have to be faithfully replicated every single jolly time in the target language, whatever that target language might be!

Odd thought: Perhaps I should run my blogs in English though Google translate into Portuguese, German or French just to see where, perhaps, my normally long sentences lose the plot? On second thoughts, I cannot really afford to have a nervous breakdown right now; I am too busy translating.



(still having an attack of the vapours)


6 thoughts on “The horror of it all

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. The new look, is the equivalent of someone being half-ready to go out. I want to buy a premium theme, but have to content myself with paying the tax man first. This mish-mash will have to stay until February next year…


  1. “Transformed into something hideous by Google translate”… Yes! I see it when less motivated students submit or post writing that has so obviously been thus mangled. Sometimes I try doing the opposite — taking something in English and plugging it into English –> Japanese software, and then show them the resulting awfulness, to help make my point. It usually works.


    1. As you know from your own writing, expressing something differently in English to how you originally thought of it – in English! – involves several mental and linguistic steps which have not yet been programmed into a language-generating machine (if such a thing truly exists). The process becomes much more complicated when transferring from one language to another. You may convey to your students that I (as a language learner) believe that there are no shortcuts. Learn the basics very well until you truly know them – and stay away from so-called automatic translation! Those student brains are capable of doing so much better than Google Translate. Truly.


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