Google Translate Fail: Japan Restaurant Tells Customers “Go Away” in Korean

Google Translate Fail: Japan Restaurant Tells Customers “Go Away” in Korean

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Picture: taa / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
A Korean restaurant in Japan used Google Translate to greet its customers in Korean. They should've just asked an actual Korean person...

A Korean restaurant in Japan found out the hard way that, when it comes to free machine translation tools, you get what you pay for.

Hangsome (ハンサム) , a Korean specialty restaurant operated by Ikka Dining Project in Ishikawa, Chiba Prefecture, wanted to print a sign welcoming customers in Korean. According to local media reports, someone at the company plugged the standard Japanese greeting “Irasshaimase” (いらっしゃいませ) into Google Translate.

“Irasshaimase” translates to “welcome”. However, when plugged into Google Translate, the phrase came out in Korean as 오지 마라 (oji mala). Plugging this back into Google Translate and translating it back into Japanese renders it as 来ないでください (konaide kudasai) – “don’t come” or “please stay away”.

The sign made waves on social media when a Korean Twitter user posted pics of the sign with the text “An anti-Korean store in Japan?” (Note: This was translated using Google Translate so…caveat emptor.) However, Japanese-speaking users were quick to point out that this was indeed Google’s fault. Twitter user @tensionosaka chimed in that the correct Korean translation should be 어서오세요 (oso-o-seyo).

Twitter user explaining how "irasshaimase!" got mangled in Google Translate.

Ikka apologized for the error and said that, going forward, it will hire an actual translation company to do this work.

More companies and government agencies are relying on machine translation (MT) as a cheap way to offer their services in multiple languages. While MT has become increasingly more reliable, it can still make major mistakes. This is particularly true when translating from Japanese, where the sparse use of gendered pronouns and the omission of explicit subjects can leave MT software clueless.

Many companies and translators use MT tools to produce rough drafts that are then refined by humans. However, some companies and government agencies use direct MT output as the finished product. The results can range from the comical to – as this story shows – the outright offensive.


Will AI Technology Ever Translate Japanese Accurately?


Hangsome Korean Restaurant

@miyagorata on Twitter

@tensionosaka on Twitter

「いらっしゃいませ」のつもりが「来るな」に Google翻訳の誤訳が招いた悲劇、店側の対応を聞く. ITMedia News


Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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