- Presidential hopefuls have come under fire for awkward Spanish translations on their campaign websites.
- Politico noted that some candidates like Sen. Amy Klobuchar look to have directly translated significant amounts of text using Google Translate, a free and often unreliable tool.
- Some translations are so bad that they make virtually no sense.
- In one example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s site translated the English phrase: “I’m not sure yet” to “En realidad, no estoy en, y he aquí por qué,” which means: “In reality, I am not on, and have here for what.”
- Other candidates, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke, have only limited Spanish language content.
- Latinos are set to be the second largest voting bloc in the United States in the 2020 election.
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Democratic candidates are facing increasing criticism over incorrect or awkward Spanish translations on their websites as they court the Latino vote in the 2020 presidential race.
Hispanics will make up the second largest voting bloc in the next election, Pew Research estimates, and many of them speak Spanish at home.
But on Sunday, Politico published a report card for the Democratic hopefuls’ Spanish language content, in which it found that passages on several contenders websites “bear striking similarities to the output from Google’s translation service.
Numerous candidates campaigns appear have performed only a “minor cleanup before publishing the copy on their sites,” the site said.
Google Translate, the search engine’s free language translation tool is often unreliable, having a tendency to translate words and phrases directly, ignoring their wider meaning.
Former congressional staffer Federick Velez III first brought attention to the issue in January when he tweeted that Sen. Kamala Harris said she had “wasted” her life fighting for the people of America, on her Spanish language page.
The magazine Latino Rebels pointed out that Harris’ text shared striking similarities with an automated translation – only that “some of the Google Translate is actually clearer.”
LOL this is the actual GOOGLE TRANSLATE, not quite exact, in fact, some of the Google Translate is actually clearer pic.twitter.com/SNftja2oBs
— Latino Rebels (@latinorebels) January 22, 2019
Harris’ campaign has since corrected the text on the website, and although Latino Rebels still criticised awkward, word-to-word translations, Politico found that her site was one of the best among Democratic candidates with “largely error-free” passages.
Other candidates fared much worse. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s website includes passages that look to be almost entirely copied from Google Translate, Politico noted.
The autogenerated text includes expressions that do not translate from English into Spanish. In one example on Klobuchar’s site, she discusses how her grandfather “saved money in a coffee can in the basement to send my dad to college.”
This idiom does not translate neatly into Spanish, with Klobuchar and Google Translate both using the Spanish word “enviar,” which is usually used in the context of sending mail, for send.
Klobuchar’s campaign spokesperson told Politico that it has “hired a professional translator who is a native Spanish speaker to translate [the] site.”
Politico found similar mistakes on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Spanish site. The most obvious example was a button on Warren’s site that in English said “I’m not sure yet,” but was directly translated into Spanish, rendering it as the virtually nonsensical: “In reality, I am not on, and have here for what.”
That error has now been fixed, with a new button using a more direct translation: “I’m still not sure.”
Warren’s campaign told Politico that it had Latino staff working on expanding its Spanish language content.
Among the candidates that fared the worst were Sen. Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke, both of whom only translated their landing page to Spanish.
Velez, who first pointed out the errors, said in his initial tweets that he believes the Democrats should be investing as much effort in their Spanish websites as they do in their English language ones.
The worst thing is that every year @TheDemocrats expect Latinos to vote and campaign for them but it’s clear they’re not spending the necessary resources, or worse, thinks it’s not that important cause “the other side is worse”.
— Frederick Velez III Burgos (@frederickvIII) January 21, 2019
“The worst thing is that every year Democrats expect Latinos to vote and campaign for them but it’s clear they’re not spending the necessary resources, or worse, thinks it’s not that important cause ‘the other side is worse’,” he tweeted.
But he said there is an easy solution to improving the translations: “Here’s an idea: before making your Spanish website live, post a picture and #LatinoTwitter will take care of the translation for you.”
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