Google Translate you’re drunk, go home

Here’s another translation funny courtesy of the ever-entertaining Google Translate.

German has always seemed to me to be a very orderly and precise language, at least when compared to the rampant irregularity and nebulousness of English. I would have thought, therefore, that translating two words from German into English should have been well within the capabilities of what is claimed now to be as good as human translators.

My simple task, which arose when I was trying to render the German title of one of Lovis Corinth’s paintings into English, was to translate the German Selbstporträt als Fahnenträger into English. Now I know that the first word means self-portrait, which is fairly self-evident, and suspected that the other two words mean something like as flag-bearer, but I was looking for something perhaps a little more precise and idiomatic.

When I asked Google Translate, it informed me that als Fahnenträger means As a towing vehicle. So I should translate the title of Corinth’s painting as Self-Portrait as a towing vehicle?


Admittedly Google Translate did suggest Carry Flags as an alternative, but Self-portrait Carry Flags makes even less sense.

Clearly, machine translation between some of the more important and closely-related languages such as German and English still has a way to go.