Language Fail – Episode 6: The time I was addressed by my price…

Translating can be a difficult task especially when you have no training in the skill and I found that out the hard while working for my previous company when asked to translate meetings for non-English speakers.

However, Google Translate has definitely not done its part for people spread out all over the world by providing at times what can only be described as overly literal translations. During my professional I had barely come across bad literal translations and when I did, these were always deliberate for comedic purposes.

Then one day while working away in Libya I received an email with what turned out to be the oddest letter attached to it which went along the lines of:

“Very Expensive Mr Tonito,

I come by this means to solicit information etc.”

However my brain could not move further than the expensive bit… What on earth was this person on about?? Why did he consider me expensive? How on earth would he know if I was expensive or not? My brain simply refused to move on the next line until it deciphered the hidden meaning.

It was only after a couple of minutes of failed attempts that my brain decided there might be clues into this riddle in the contents of the letter, however this just added to my confusion as its contents made no sense whatsoever!

It was only when I saw the sender that my brain put two and two together. The sender’s name was very Portuguese, which meant that the sender was from Portugal, which led my brain to translate the letter to Portuguese which suddenly made a lot sense and said the following:

“Carrisimo Senhor Fernandes,

Venho por este meio solicitar etc”

However, the sender simply decided that instead of writing the letter in Portuguese, he would write it in Portuguese and send it through Google Translate. Alas, at the time, the online translator was still in its infancy and its accuracy left to be desired.

What Google Translate did, was translate the letter word by word which caused the odd translation as words like Carrisimo can mean “expensive” and “dear” and sentences like “Venho por este meio solicitar” simply mean “I hereby request..”

This episode turned out to be the first of many, especially originating from some of our Spanish and French suppliers who weren’t too interested in providing us with well translated letters; however it made a lot of my days more fun than they were supposed to be, especially when the odd mistranslations were badly spelt as well as in the case I had in a letter that was ended in the following manner:



This was funny as not only had the person google translated an email but they went a step further my misspelling the word in their own language as ending letters in Portuguese is done by writing “Cumprimentos,” which translates to “Regards,” but instead the culprit wrote “Comprimentos,” which translates to lengths.

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2 Responses to Language Fail – Episode 6: The time I was addressed by my price…

  1. Mauro says:

    Tonito, you should write a book, telling to everyone all those facts, but create a history for each fact.

    The beast is catching….. In Venezuela 🙂

    • Tonito says:

      Mauro, I have definitely considered it, but this might be project for later on in life when I have time to structure the ideas and stories. Watch this space! 🙂

Thoughts? Let me know! :)

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