Machine translation brochure goes into print

The town of Homberg in North Hesse is having to pulp 7500 copies of a brochure in ‘English’ that was full of errors, according to the Frankfurter Rundschau (there is a second similar report). (Thanks to Ilse Fallas for the information)

First, the town (15,000 inhabitants) asked a number of English teachers to translate the brochure, but none of them had time. To save the cost of a professional translation, which would have cost several thousand euros, the town then relied on a computer program. Freizeitwert (roughly, value in terms of leisure activities) became casual value, and Freibad (open-air swimming pool) became free bath.

It cost the town 3538 euros to print the brochure.

This is so familiar.
How much time did the town allow for translation?
Were the schoolteachers native speakers of English?
Whether they were native speakers of English or not, how much experience did they have in translation – translation not just for understanding, but for publication, translation that read well?
How much time was the author given?
How much was the author paid?
Who decided the brochure was no good? Not that I don’t believe it, but where in the whole process was anyone with an understanding of English fit for publication? The report says that no-one checked the computer translation, but a machine translation usually takes longer to correct than a new translation from scratch.
(MT can be used to get the gist of a text, but that’s not what was wanted here).

One thought on “Machine translation brochure goes into print

  1. Very interesting and so typical of the attitude in German-speaking countries (“I can English” – sic!).

    Asking English teachers to translate a brochure is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard in a long time (since English high-school teachers in Germany are not exactly experts in the language – one would assume so, but it’s not true).

    Well, just proves my point: the old miser always pays twice …

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