What Happens When You Machine Translate "Poker Face"?
During our marketing workshop on an island off Oslo last summer, our Operations Manager Tiago Aprigio came up with this idea: to run some song lyrics through a few layers of machine translation and then do a parody like remake of that music video.
Since the business of All-in Translations is almost exclusively related to gaming content, we wanted to find an apposite song but the choices weren’t plentiful. Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”? Too slow. “Viva Las Vegas”? A bit dated. And Bukowski’s “Roll The Dice” is probably the best text written on the subject, but it’s a bit dark for this scenario and has nothing to do with gaming.
The obvious choice: Lady Gaga Poker Face.
We used the most popular machine translation website and translated the English lyrics into a few different languages and then back into English. The consequence was exactly as we had predicted: the original lyrics turned into gibberish.
“I’ll get him hot, show him what I’ve got” was translated as “How I want to say hotspot”.“Russian Roulette” is not the same without a gun was translated surprisingly accurate as “Russian Roulette is not the same without some firearms”.“Poker face” was suddenly “Silent face“Just like a chick in the casino” became “Like chickens in casino”.“I’m not lying I’m just stunning with my love glue gunnin'” was translated as “I said: I have a lovely glued photo”.And according to the robot “A little gambling is fun when you’re with me” is equivalent to “Be like me when I was little I was playing games”.
Luckily for us Events By Martin had rented an almost duplicate villa in Mellieha (Malta) to accommodate a pool party for the gaming industry, so we arrived early in the morning and shot our spoof video there before the other guests arrived. So when the gifted director Angelique Muller said “It’s a wrap”, our annual summer staff party could finally begin.
“So what is the message you are trying to demonstrate?” People asked.
Machine translation is becoming more and more accurate – that much is obvious. A lot of texts can be machine translated from one language to another and then understood by someone who only speaks the target language.
This is great for a lot things, for example if you just want to grasp the essence of an article which is not available in your own language, or if you are traveling and you want to learn how to say “thank you” like a “local”.
But to make a sale online, you rely on two things: 1) the customer fully understands the exact details, and 2) the customer trusts you enough to make that purchase. Machine translations are not accurate enough to achieve that. At least not yet. I guess you can create very simple texts with little room for interpretation and imagination and have them fairly accurately translated by a machine, but as soon as you are dealing with a text that is creative, the machines are in big trouble. This is also the case though for translators that have little or no understanding of the topic that the text explores. In both cases, the result will be too literal, at best, or completely unintelligible.
Want to see for yourself? Punch in a few betting, casino or poker terms in, for example, Google Translate with English as the source language, and your own language as the target language, and see if the result is something you would put on your website. Being Norwegian myself, I tried the below terms and the results are all quite confusing.
Better to just keep your content in English then, right? Wrong. A recent survey* of 3,000 online shoppers across 10 countries found that 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites.
Last but not least I want to extend a big thank you to everyone involved. First and foremost, the production crew who always delivers beyond expectation. Cheers to Stefan also who brought the AK47 and instantly agreed to wear a leopard Speedo. Lee who also gave an instant Yes to the Speedo. Jacqui Losco for being a total superstar. Mike for bringing Maggie. Jarek for wearing fake coconut breasts. Michele for great acting skills. Tiago for skillful dancing. Nicolas for not freaking out on his first day of work. Valentin for excellent script coordination. Angelo for letting us throw cheese at him. Roderick for a stone cold poker face. And everyone else!