Dear Journalists: You Know… Using Babelfish To E-Mail The Foreign Minister’s A Piss-Poor Idea

1112hebrew.gifA note to journalists everywhere: When traveling to foreign countries on press junkets to interview diplomats, don’t use online translation services if you don’t know the native language. An Israeli journalist learned this the hard way when traveling to the Netherlands. Here’s the Jerusalem Post‘s recap:

Over the weekend, the Dutch Foreign Ministry received a puzzling e-mail from the delegation of journalists who were scheduled to arrive in Amsterdam next week for an educational seminar on the Dutch political system.

“Helloh bud, Enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian, and on relational Israel Holland,” began the e-mail. It continued with five nearly incomprehensible questions, and several other mentions of “mother.”

“How could this e-mail possibly have been sent? These journalists have sparked a major, major incident,” said an official from Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “Sure he can’t understand many of the questions, because the English is so bad. But he is being asked about the sleeping arrangements of his mother!”

The Foreign Ministry contacted the journalists who sent the e-mail and discovered that an automated on-line translation tool was at the root of the problem.

The journalist who had arranged the trip and conducted all the previous communication was away on reserve duty when the Dutch Consulate requested a preview of the questions that the journalists intended to ask. Another journalist involved in the trip took it upon himself to send the questions, and – in lieu of a working knowledge of English – relied on an on-line translation site, www.babelfish.com. Typing in his Hebrew questions, he copied the automatic translations into an e-mail and sent it to the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

Questions which were meant to read: “What, in your opinion, needs to be done regarding the Iranian threat to Israel?” Became: “What in your opinion needs to do opposite the awful the Iranian of Israel.”

Now, a few things in this article raised our eyebrows a little:

1. Babelfish (who, incidentally, had their URL translated incorrectly by the JPost) does not translate Hebrew.

2. The offending newspaper is not named.

3. The offending journalist is not named.

However, the Post is a reputable newspaper so we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Do any of our readers have any additional info on this story? Let us know.