The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

User Beware – Translate Server Error

Posted by kenhoward on August 4, 2008

Thanks to my good friends at Schlumberger, I had the tremendous opportunity to do some work in Beijing around five years ago.

With all the buzz about the Olympics, which start this week, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my time in China. Five years ago, there were marginal attempts to provide English translations on signs, but the quality of those translations was not always what I’d expect. For example, note this sign on a fire hydrant by the elevators at the Schlumberger office in Beijing…

Recently with all the visitors expected for the Olympics, there has been a mad dash to translate signs to attract commerce from visitors. So where to the translations come from? Maybe from an English-Chinese/Chinese-English dictionary…maybe from a bilingual friend or family member…or maybe from an online translation website such as Babelfish. I must admit that if I used an online tool to generate Chinese characters from my English phrase, I would probably accept the translation it provides me as accurate. Therefore, the reverse must also be true.

Check out this photo of a sign in front of a Beijing restaurant…


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