Today I welcome author Anna Mocikat onto my blog, who is discusses just why you shouldn’t use Google Translator if you want to include any other language within your novel.
Big thanks to Anna for being today’s guest poster, please make sure to check out her links and details at the end of this post.
Like never ever ever!
I still remember the day very well when the Google translator got introduced for the first time. Everybody was so excited! The press was celebrating it and enthusiastically cheering that soon professional translators would become obsolete.
Greedy publishers were rubbing their hands in anticipation, hoping they would soon save tons of money they otherwise have to spend on expensive, professional translators.
After all, media and experts were assuring us, the software would quickly become so good and intelligent that the reader wouldn’t recognize the difference between a text translated by the AI and a human. Golden times were coming!
I was very skeptical from the beginning. Everybody who works with more than one language knows how difficult translations can be and that the devil hides in the details.
My cousin, who is a professional book translator from English and German into Polish just said: that’s a good one!
Now, a couple of years later, no sane business insider would suggest that anymore – for a good reason. The internet is full of Google translator fails in which people all around the world trusted the seemingly omnipotent tech giant and ended up being a laughingstock.
It soon turned out that languages, especially the way we speak them every day with each other, are way too complex to be translated by software. You now might think that this does only apply to really complicated languages which differ dramatically from English.
I am trilingual. My first language was Polish, then I learned German in early childhood when I moved to Germany and finally, I learned English well enough to be able to write my novels in it. I stumble over severe translation fails in between these three languages all the time.
The Google translator is bad, but the Facebook one is even worse. I live in the US but have many Facebook friends and family in Germany and Poland. Without that I ever asked for it, Facebook translates me their German and Polish posts into English.
As soon as it comes to figurative speech (and our languages are full of it!), the translator fails miserably. Sometimes the translation attempts are to the dead laughing. (Ladies and Gentlemen, here you have a simple example of a Google translator fail: I typed “zumtotlachen” into Google, which is German figurative speech meaning something like laughing yourself to death).
Sometimes IchlachemeinenArschaus. (I typed “laughing my ass off” into Google and that’s what came out. Total nonsense in German which would be translated into English asI mock my ass). Sometimes I don’t understand a single word.
These were just two quick examples showing what a miserable failure the almighty Google software is.
Google translator in books
Now, you will say. Ok, such fails only happen in Chinese restaurants or Russian grocery stores. Nope. They happen in bestselling novels.
And you won’t believe how often. Being a German native speaker, I read most of my books in English and in one of five cases if an author brings in a German character speaking German (They are mostly Nazis. Or bad guys of some sort.
They can try to save the world as much as they want, Germans always will remain the bad guys in literature and movies, that’s as sure as Newton’s law, lol.) the German is gibberish.
I wonder how that can happen. German isn’t such a difficult language, after all. The only possible answer is the author using Google translator and the editors being sloppy.
Still don’t believe me?
I’ve got an example for you. When I stumbled upon it, it made me spill my coffee laughing.
“Schrauben Sie es, Mädchen!”
This is a quote from the first book of the “The Expanse” series – one of my all-time favorite Sci-Fi book series and shows. A huge bestseller, and I really admire the authors. And then this…
An evil German (of course!) character says this in the book. What the author wanted him to say is: Screw you, girl! What he actually says is something like “Use the screwdriver, girl!” (this is a loose translation since it’s figurative speech). The real translation of what the author wanted to say is too profane for me to write it here, but it should have been in the book.
Never ever ever EVER use Google translator
I know it’s tempting. We authors love having international characters in our books. And if we let them drop a line in their native language, we feel so sophisticated, and the characters get more depth and the story more realism.
Why not just type what I want to say into Google translator? After all, Google is your friend and knows everything, right?
If you want native-speaking readers to spill their coffee on your book while reading it, go ahead.
In my opinion, you have three options: either use a language you actually have learned and mastered well OR find a native speaker who will translate it for you, OR just let it be.
Trust me, Google translator fails are SchmerzenimArsch.
(If you wonder, yes, that was another translation fail. Used every day in English, total nonsense in German.)
Don’t be a fool in front of a mister (Trottelvor dem Herrn – expression in German which doesn’t exist in English and basically means total moron), never ever EVER use Google translator.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Anna Mocikat was born in Warsaw, Poland, but spent most of her life in Germany where she attended film school, worked as a screenwriter and a game writer for several years.
Her “MUC” novels have been nominated for the most prestigious awards for Fantasy and Science-Fiction in Germany.
In 2016 Anna Mocikat moved to the USA where she continued her writing career in English.
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This post was written by a guest writer. Please check out their details above.