Lying granitas, escaping pasta, and honoured exhibitionists

Do you prefer a granita flavoured with strawberry, lemon, or lies? Better a risotto with prawns and courgettes, spaghetti with mice, or “pappardelle to escape from someone”? And then, how about going to visit a city that honours exhibitionists? No, we haven’t completely lost our mind, we’re just playing a little game recalling the amusing – though not for those directly concerned – gallery of horrors that the world of automatic translators has given us over the last several years.

It seems impossible nowadays, but this is exactly what happens. There is still someone out there who wants to translate the contents of their website, the menu or sign of their restaurant, or an official invitation to be sent to thousands of people, and blindly trusts a translation programme available on the Web free of charge. The underlying reasoning is this: if it was useful once to help me understand a word I didn’t know, it will also resolve the problems with more complex sentences or even entire texts. So, thinking they might save a few euros, they embark on a path to lose much more, along with a good deal of credibility. And problems sometimes arise even with just one word…

Ah yes, because if you’re a foreign tourist and in a shop in Rome you see a menu on which they propose granitas flavoured with strawberry, lemon, or lies… and in a restaurant they propose “pappardelle to you escape him”, you’ll probably decide to escape yourself and will never have the chance to taste that lovely dish of pasta with scampi (a word which also means “to escape” in Italian). It won’t be any better if they offer Spaghetti alla Bolognese with “tomato sauce, mice, onion and basil”… Perhaps you’ll want to flee to Milan, maybe to visit an exhibition or a trade show, but you might not be too happy reading a sign saying the city has organized its first “Exhibitionist Award” and will therefore honour exhibitionists rather than exhibitors…

We’re sure that it has happened to everyone to come across a bizarre translation here and there, but when you decide to approach an audience that doesn’t speak your language, appearing superficial is the surest way to send them running in the other direction. The tools now available on the Web can be useful in cases of “survival” or to resolve minor problems – without forgetting that even in these cases you need to be careful –, but they risk exposing you to gaffes and blunders that can be very embarrassing, or worse, cause you to lose opportunities. The translation of a text and the choice of words, sentences, and the appropriate tone is a complex and delicate operation, one that for more than 35 years we have performed with passion and attention to ensure that your texts are “cooked” to perfection… without the risk of finding unexpected ingredients on the plate!


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