La Tribune Online Translations: The Integral of the Cats

Bad translations have made it into the nightly news: we recently heard Keith Olbermann on MSNBC mocking the online version of the French business newspaper La Tribune, which is now unfortunately available in bad English, German and Spanish. We'd love to know if the Italian is any good, but we doubt it.

On, next to the flags indicating the different languages, a banner reads "Beta Powered by Systran." We don’t know anything about Systran, which praises "a cost effective solution that makes it possible to increase content of translated content" on its website, but we do know that the "translations" their system provides are pretty awful. One of the menu items in the top navigation of the English version is quite accurately called "Green Business," but has a drop-down menu where you can click on "The integral of the cats". The French version says “L’intégral des chats”, which should probably read "Chat transcripts." Chat = cat? Our cat doesn't chat.

More negative highlights: another menu item is called "Untertaken," which should be "Business"(French: "enterprises"). We also shared a laugh about "Topicality of July 12,"Porsche makes assemble the biddings between Qatar and Volkswagen" and "Bank secrecy: the US government asks for the carryforward of lawsuit UBS."

The German and Spanish versions are largely incomprehensible, but give the reader a vague idea about the content of the article. The Spanish version offers a bizarre combination of English and Spanish: "Washington, tired autoridades suizas there UBS quieren intentar una última negociación idiot respecto Al secreto bancario. Piden prórroga LED pleito LED bank value suizo that debía abrirse mañana." Gosh, this website provides endless hours of entertainment! The infamous cats also make an appearance in the Spanish version: “El íntegro of leasing cats". German: "DAS íntegro DER Katzen". We suspect the Italian version isn’t any better – any Italian translators out there?

La Tribune is doing a fine job of ruining its reputation by providing these ridiculous automated translations. Non merci!


Thomas Gruber on July 14, 2009 at 3:39 AM said...

Systran is an automatic machine translation engine.

Licia on July 14, 2009 at 7:08 AM said...

Quite a few gems also in the Italian version ;-)
Green business gets translated as Green affare ("bargain green", which makes one wonder why the MT system, which I believe is rule-based, did not come up with the Italian adjective verde, which shares most of the figurative meanings green has in English); L'intégrale des chats becomes La totalità dei gatti, i.e. "all the cats".
In the Carriere ("careers") menu there is an interesting item, Digiuni laureati, "fasts with a degree" (meaning "period without food") instead of neolaureati which I assume is what is meant by Jeunes diplômés in French.

I could go on, and indeed machine translation can often provide a few good laughs, but it must be said that MT systems like those by Google and Microsoft can often produce very good results, especially if the text being translated is similar to material the system was trained with.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 14, 2009 at 11:11 PM said...

@Thomas Gruber: Yes, right, thanks!

@Licia: Thanks for the insight on the Italian gems. We agree that some MT is actually very good (even though it's a troubling trend) - but this isn't one of them! We appreciate your input.

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