Spanish Language Translations Not Right on the Left

Published on 11 Apr, 2019

by Marcos Dinnerstein

Summary: The Spanish language translations of the leading Democratic candidates for President range from sloppy to poor to missing. They need to do better.

Sometimes the universe drops a gift in your lap. The messengers bearing this gift to MotaWord were some of the leading Democratic candidates for President. What is that gift? They proved that quality language translations are best done by professionals. That would be us and our over 16,000 translators at MotaWord.

In a recent article in Politico, the candidates were faulted for having Spanish language translations of their campaign websites that were sloppy, error-riddled, awful or non-existent. Proving once more that a credible Spanish language translation of a website must be done by language experts - either a qualified person in-house or by an experienced professional.

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On the topic of the Spanish language, translations read our prior blog: Spanish Language Translation For Your Website: Which Spanish?

Politico.com reviewed the Spanish language translations of each candidate’s website and rated them on the quality of the translation. In many cases, the results did not instill confidence in their competence or their commitment to engaging with Spanish speaking voters. They ranged from bad to merely sloppy or in some cases, a candidate had no Spanish translation of their website. (Really? In 2019?)

So what happened?
That depends on whose site you were looking at. The primary suspect, a “web tool of interest” is Google Translate. For those who are monolingual, this has been a great way to get the gist of an article with a Spanish translation. We can see that much is wrong but it gives us enough to know the general meaning. Google Translate is not yet remotely good enough to produce a finished product, especially if your goal is to win the hearts and minds of a crucial voting bloc.

The Gory Details. Who did what? 
This won’t be a comprehensive survey. Politico.com did a terrific job and we link to that below. But here are some of the faux pas (or in Spanish, ‘metida de pata’) that were found.

  • Grade: A-       
    Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, and Jay Inslee each received this grade and were faulted on minor typos on their websites. Jay Inslee was given credit for good use of technical language relating to climate change.

  • Grade: B+
    The websites of Julián Castro and Kirsten Gilibrand needed more attention to detail, such as input forms, better headlines and translating videos. (with either captioning or voice-overs) Like myself, Julián Castro’s mother is Chicana but he does not speak Spanish fluently. And like mine, many families, when faced with discrimination, made their children speak English only, to avoid the potential stigma. (I’ve been playing catchup ever since)

  • Grade: C
    Elizabeth Warren’s site was graded C+ and Amy Klobuchar was graded C. They each contained errors and Klobuchar’s content matched the output of Google Translate and were thus error-filled.

  • I (Incomplete) or F
    These candidates, who we won’t shame any more than they have already been shamed, either had their landing page in a Spanish Language translation (poorly done) or had no Spanish Language website at all. Dios mío! Come on people. 
But let’s give props where props are due. Listen to Cory Booker smoothly speak in Spanish to a Spanish speaking audience.

Candidates, please do yourself a favor and let us do the work for you. Concentrate on telling the American public what you will do to address the many problems our country is facing and why we should vote for you. This is a form of ‘sales pitch’. We wrote about this as well:

Speak To Global Customers In Their Own Language

MotaWord is standing by to help. Learn more. 

And once again, thanks to Politico.com for this gift of an article:
Latino outreach or Google Translate? 2020 Dems bungle Spanish websites

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