Google Translate


Google Translate: simultaneously the bane of my existence and the reason for my living. I can't tell you how many times I've turned to it to plug in that one word I can't figure out in a sentence from the newspaper. Sadly, G-Tizzle is far from accurate. I really only use it to help remind myself of words I've forgotten--not words that I want to know.

For this reason, I've started cheating on G-Tizzle with Hans Wehr (pronounced, right?). Even though turning to H-Dub is slower (flipping through pages UGGGGH), I always know the translation is legit and it gives me verb prepositions and IPA pronunciation.

In that sense, GT is like the One Ring: A powerful tool if you're aware of its limitations, but complete reliance on it will consume your life and turn you (or at least your translations) into this nasty little half-naked quasi-human with a raspy voice and patchy hair and bulbous eyes.

A perfect example of said peril is highlighted in the following email, sent to me by my professor today:


A student brought me a menu today he had lifted from a restaurant. It had the whole thing in Arabic on one side and in English on the other. Some of the dishes listed in English are:

Power Hot Hot
Park Cheese (4 beads)
Fried Kubba (pill)
Pope Ghannouj
Turkish Authority Lane
The Authority of Watercress
Arab Authority
The Authority of Rough
Baltahinah Authority
The option of milk
Feathers (1 kg)
Arais meat, Municipal
Blades with potatoes and tomatoes

We have a special section The day before Toasi Ozzie pleased concerts in your home BBQ

We were racking our brains trying to figure out how they could have come up with this stuff. There were a couple of Arabic words we didn't know so I looked them up on Google Translate, and the translation was too close, so we typed everything in, and found that the entire thing was simply mindlessly lifted from Google Translate. 

There are too many funny misinterpretations to list them all, but here are some:
  • Baba means Father or Pope, so baba ghannoush (the name of traditional dish made with eggplants) got translated Pope Ghannoush.
  • The word salata (salad) is spelled with the same letters as the word sulta (power, authority) even though they are completely different words, since Arabic is written without short vowels. So all the "power" and "authority" entries are types of salad. 
  • The word for spicy, harra, is spelled the same in Arabic as the word for alley or lane: haara. So Turkish Authority Lane is Spicy Turkish Salad. 
  • Additionally, harra can refer to "hot" as in temperature. So "Spicy Hot Salad" becomes "Power Hot Hot." 
  • The word for "cucumber", khijaar, is the same as the word for "choice." And the word for "milk" in standard Arabic is used for "yoghurt" in colloquial Arabic, so "option of milk" is really "cucumbers and yoghurt." 
  • Ozzie is from ouzy, a rice dish, which was part of a former sentence. 
  • The word for "party" is also used for "concert", so that last sentence means they can cater parties in your home. 
Anyway, I'm going to be using this in class to demonstrate the dangers of relying on Google Translate, or any dictionary, for writing or translating exercises, if you don't pay attention to the context.


See what I've had to deal with all semester???


  1. This is hilarious. I looked for crazy translations the whole time I was in Jordan. There aren't as many in Israel and the West Bank--they have too much foreign influence! I miss the days of horrible English translations...


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