February 24, 2011

"有情人终成眷属" and "Money talks" on Google Translate

Google Translate is increasingly popular. But more mistakes are also being found, especially when idioms are translated. One salient example is the Chinese-to-English translation of "有情人终成眷属" [People in love eventually get married], which is translated as "Money talks" [有钱能使鬼推磨]. I checked a few other languages I know, such as French and Spanish, where the translation is "L'argent parle" and "El dinero habla", respectively. They both literally mean "Money talks".

How does this or this kind of errors occur? According to Inside Google Translate, Google Translate "looks for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents to help decide on the best translation for you". Let's check those "millions of documents" for this particular idiom. Search for
"有情人终成眷属" "money talks"
quotation marks included, and the result is 31300 hits as of this writing. Most indeed bear titles associating the Chinese idiom with "money talks". But some are apparently talking about Google Translate's mistake. So to be fair, we need to filter them out. Try excluding "Google" with the minus operator
"有情人终成眷属" "money talks" -google -"谷歌"
Again, quotation marks included. The result is 26400 hits. The first hit

Album : Money talks
Chinese : 有情人终成眷属  (You Qing Ren Zhong Cheng Juan Zhu)
Artist : Zheng Yuan (郑源 Zheng Yuan)
Release Date : 1/18/2006

clearly made this mistake, at least partially contributing to Google's blind pattern-looking.


Yong Huang at March 5, 2011 at 8:16 PM said...

"有情人终成眷属" is now translated as "Married lovers" on Google Translate, much more correct than before.

Xujun Eberlein at March 6, 2011 at 8:11 AM said...

Interesting. Did your post have something to do with Google's correction?

Yong Huang at March 6, 2011 at 2:31 PM said...

Well, mine is only one of the many postings on the newsgroup dedicated to Google Translate, and was not the first, to point out this error. People report all kinds of laughable mistakes, including translating one country's name to a different one.

Yong Huang at March 18, 2011 at 8:21 AM said...

Tried a few other free online translators for "有情人终成眷属". Got more laugh.

Contact me by email or form
To my English for Chinese Page