Don’t Trust Your Translator (If It’s a Machine)


I had this student who thought he could beat the system and pass in an English writing assignment that he had clearly written in Chinese and translated online. When I asked him if he had put his assignment through Google Translate, he looked sheepish for a minute and then asked me, “How did you know?” Believe me, it was easy to tell!

Translation tools online have come a long way for sure, but they still have a long way to go before we can actually trust them. This is especially true if you are translating between two languages that have different basic sentence structures.

To highlight why you shouldn’t trust a machine to translate for you, check out the two videos below.

The first video is the theme song for a very popular TV show from the early ’90s, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, starring Will Smith. (You can find the lyrics at the bottom of this post.)

Great, right? (You can find episodes on Youtube, if you are interested.)

Some very creative people from collectivecadenza posted this video on Youtube, taking this well-known song and putting it through Google Translate. You be the judge of how well Google does!

See what I mean? Where did the apricot come from?

Don’t trust the machines.


Now, as promised, here are the original lyrics:

This is a story all about how
My life got flip-turned upside down
And I liked to take a minute and sit right there
And tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air

In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chilling’ out, maxing’, relaxing’ all cool
And all shooti’g some b-ball outside of the school

When a couple of guys who were up to no good
Starting’ makin’g trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one lil’ fight and my mom got scared
She said you’re movin with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air

I whistled for a cab and when it came near
The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror
If anything I can say this cab is rare
But I thought now forget it yo homes to Bel Air

I pulled up to the house about 7 or 8
And I yelled to the cabyo homes, smell ya later
I looked at my kingdom, I was finally there
To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Air

(Songwriters: SMITH, WILLARD C. / TOWNES, JEFFREY, Published by: Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group)


Want to translate this? Try Google Translate here (and see what this post is really all about):

ArabicChinese (Simplified)Chinese (Traditional)DanishEnglishFrenchGermanHindiItalianJapanesePortugueseRussianSpanishThai


1 thought on “Don’t Trust Your Translator (If It’s a Machine)”

  1. Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is important and everything.
    But think about if you added some great images or
    video clips to give your posts more, “pop”!

    Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this site could definitely be one of the most beneficial in its field.

    Good blog!

Comments are closed.