Hartford Courant's Spanish site is Google Translate

CTLatino.com | Hartford Courant | Poynter.org

Robert Downs reported Thursday about newspapers providing Spanish-language training for their employees. Clicking on the words "Courant en Español" on the Hartford Courant's website, though, opens a portal on a Spanish-language strategy that's unusual for a different reason: The newspaper simply runs its entire site through Google Translate.

The limitations of this approach are immediately apparent to Spanish-speakers. Former Courant columnist Bessy Reyna compiled some of the weird results in July:

The July 12 posts brings these news “Este mujer Hartford acusado de apuñalar con el hombrepelador de patatas” which literally reads: “This woman Hartford Accused of stabbing the man with potato peeler.”

Most of the articles change gender in mid paragraph (Mama acusado de conducir borracho..” (instead of acusada and borracha) “Mujer Embarazada lesionado (instead of lesionada or verbs “Policia hacer arresto.” Instead of “Policia hace arrestos.”

Even the editorials are not excempt: “El nuevo aeropuerto de Connecticut Autoridad esta fuera de la puerta. Literal translation: “The new airport of Connecticut authority is outside the doors” What?

After Reyna's blog post appeared, the Courant published a disclaimer, saying it "has begun using a free and popular software developed by Google to translate stories into Spanish."

However, readers should be aware that due to limitations in the Google software some of the translations of the English headlines and articles don't always translate accurately word-for-word into Spanish."

In attempt to improve the translation service, Google has included a wiki/crowdsource feature that allows bi-lingual users to write better English translations for each article. Simply hover over a story with your cursor, enter the translation and help write a better English to Spanish translation.

"It would take hours to fix the many problems found in each piece," Reyna writes in a follow-up. 43.4 percent of Hartford's population is of Hispanic or Latino origin, according to the 2010 Census.

No one at the Courant or its parent company Tribune replied to my messages asking for an explanation of the paper's Spanish-language strategy. Tribune owns Spanish-language papers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, all of which appear to be compiled by humans.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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