Google Translate Totally Fails Foreign Couples Trying to Say Their Wedding Vows in English

ElaN's latest fun stunt

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here to join these couples in holy matrimony. And to compare ElaN Languages with Google Translate when it comes to translating international couple's wedding vows, written in their native languages, to English. 

In this amusing campaign for ElaN, from J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam, three real couples—not actors—ran the vows through both online translation tools, and read the results in English at their actual ceremonies. The translations were derived from Hindi, Portuguese, Spanish, Polish, Dutch and Norwegian. 

One shoot took place at a wedding, one during a rehearsal and another at a renewal of vows. In each case, the bride and groom were in on the joke, "but the double vows were a surprise to many of the guests," agency executive creative director Bas Korsten tells AdFreak.

As for the presence of commercial film crews, well, "they must have just thought their friends decided to really splurge on the wedding videography." 

Watch the spot here: 

Needless to say, Google's translations go awkwardly awry, though "I promise to grow old with you and keep your children alive" has a certain forthright charm, as does "I promise to be the best me that fits your best regional areas." 

Alas, telling a bride "You're my biggest size" won't win a groom many points (though if she said that to him… well, anyway). 

ElaN's translations, meanwhile, include more traditional-sounding sentiments, such as "I'm forever changed because of who you are and what you mean to me" and "I couldn't imagine growing old with anyone else." Aww… 

The campaign, titled "Promise the Translation," follows last year's Epica Grand Prix-winning "Taste the Translation," in which a Japanese recipe was translated by both Google and ElaN, with the results prepared by a chef and tasted by passersby. 

" 'Taste the Translation' was good because it put translations into such an unusual context," Korsten says. "So, when coming up with the next campaign, we tried to think about what other senses we could tap into. The idea of weddings felt right because they're so serious, and that heavy emotion was a great foil for the humor of a bad translation." 

While the new clip makes a memorable case for ElaN, "Taste" seems a bit stronger, because the translations were presented as direct comparisons. For example, ElaN's "boil the spinach" was followed by Google's "rape the spinach." (Clearly an act best avoided.) 

Conversely, in the wedding clip, we get a batch of bad Google translations followed by various on-point ElaN translations; there's no real correlation.

According to Korsten, "It doesn't work to go back and forth from funny to emotional every time. Plus, we're not visualizing the translation itself, only verbalizing, so that also adds another reason to group funny and emotional and not go side by side." 

Apologies, JWT—we know it's bad form to object at weddings.


Client: ElaN Languages

Business Development Director, Management Team Lead: Johan Noël

Agency: J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam

Executive Creative Director, Copy: Bas Korsten

Senior Creative, Art: Guney Soykan

Senior Creative, Copy: Kasia Haupt Canning

Strategy Director: Daan de Raaf

Strategist: Lex Notenboom

Concept Producer: Linda Jansen

Screen Producers: Lotte de Rooij, Mariska Fransen

Designer: Ronald Mica

Production Compagny: Brenninkmeijer & Isaacs

Postproduction, Editing, Visual Effects: The Ambassadors

Director: Joe Roberts

Director of Photography: Job Kraaijeveld

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.