Welcome to the Machine

roundel adopted by Royal Canadian Air Force, f...

An important lesson in a very brief post. There’s a story in the Toronto Sun this morning about how Hockey Canada’s official French web site is full of translation errors. The blame is being placed on the fact that the site was sub-contracted out. Reading between the lines, and having been down the French translation road a few times myself, I know that there’s a temptation to use software to do the translation or to employ a non-native speaker. Bad calls are even worse when you pass the blame.  What’s worse is that this was the on-line commerce section of the site, a place where you’re asking people to open their wallets.   What’s weirder is that the products (T-shirts, etc.) being sold feature slogans in English only.

The decision was made a while ago to offer the items in only one language because there wasn’t enough demand for a second language option.

“At one time, the decision was made to drop the sales of French products because it was expensive in terms of inventory,” he said. “The demand wasn’t there. The products in French weren’t selling.”

But since the law requires you to sell in French, you can’t give a Gallic shrug to the market. And maybe the products aren’t selling because you obviously don’t care enough to put your best foot forward as you ask for the order? What messages are you sending?  We’re doing what we have to do because the law says so?  We don’t care enough to make products to appeal to you but we’ll try and sell them to you anyway?

Machine translations miss idioms.  Non-native speakers do as well. Consumers miss nothing. Ne comprenez-vous?

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