Translation and Language Industry Observations

In this famous clip from Goodfellas, the character played by Joe Peschi seems to take offence at Henry’s accusation of him being a funny guy. Normally a gangster like Tommy would have whacked Henry instead of just laughing it off as a big joke.

Why did I put this clip in a blog post? Well first of all I LOVE Goodfellas. It is a classic. As an avid reader, and especially keen of the mafia genre, I read Nicholas Pileggi‘s book Wiseguy way before Martin Scorsese made it into a blockbuster movie. But there is another reason I wanted to put in this clip.

The translation industry is huge and one of the fastest growing industries. The global market for translation services is over 20 Billion USD a year. But let’s face it-the translation business is not exciting and relatively little is known about it to people outside of the business. It lacks sex appeal so to speak. But there is one aspect of the world of translation that garners wide interest: funny translations that come out of machine translation software and that are used in public. Some of these translations are so ridiculous, so outrageous, that people can’t help laughing. If Joe Pesci had a translation business, he would probably be saying “are we here to amuse you?”

Here is a video clip that we have licensed that shows some funny Chinese menu translations. (some of the cooking techniques look cool and the food looks delicious-this restaurant obviously puts more effort into the food than in the translation of their menus).

Here is a YouTube channel called Translator Fails. It has about 1 million subscribes. This channel is dedicated to creating songs and video clips which are parodied by using Google Translate instead of the regular lyrics.

Here are some other funny Internet pages devoted to bad translations:




Reddit Engrish

Do you know of any funny translations you want to share? Please leave a comment on this post.


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