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Expo 2015 'Google Translate' scandal: World fair organisers in Milan accused of doing English-language translation on the cheap

'Smell fragrant bells' and learn about 'food squandering reduction'

Adam Withnall
Thursday 12 February 2015 17:11 GMT
'Certificates and certified company in English' are offered at Expo 2015 in Milan, apparently
'Certificates and certified company in English' are offered at Expo 2015 in Milan, apparently

The organisers of the most prestigious world fair on the planet, subject to hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment and put on only once every five years, have been accused of using Google Translate to produce their English-language website.

Expo 2015 will open in Milan on 1 May, and promises to “feed the planet” with the presentation of new innovations and technologies in food from around the globe. Almost 150 countries will be participating in the exposition, and organisers are expecting up to 20 million people to visit over its five-month run.

But the website encouraging them to do so has come under heavy fire for offering attendants the chance to “smell fragrant bells”, “stay out till the morning in some disco” and learn about “food squandering reduction” in what appear to be a series of translation gaffes.

A blog dedicated to fair pay for translators has previously criticised Expo 2015 for giving contracts to agencies that offer its workers “pitiful rates”. No Peanuts for Translators said that despite the generous fees offered by Expo 2015, they consistently chose agencies which undercut qualified translators.

'Region that go, project that you find'...'Tourism, but not only'
'We can ride on giant fruits, smell fragrant bells' (Screenshot by Corriere della Sera)
'There is who says no'

The extraordinary results have been the subject of reports in Italian papers including the daily Corriere della Sera, and many carried screenshots showing that the English on matched exactly with what you get when you put the Italian version into Google Translate.

The site has reportedly been amended since newspapers revealed some of the worst mistakes – but plenty are still evident.

One article, entitled: “Regione che vai, progetto che trovi” and with the first line: “Turismo ma non solo.” Translated with Google’s free service, it reads rather oddly: “Region that go, the project that are. Tourism, but not only.” Sure enough, that’s how it appears on the Expo 2015 website.

'Also food in the international exposition ‘Aquae Venezia’ dedicated to water that will take place simultaneously with Expo Milan 2015'
'But from North to South, other realities are in fermentation in view of 1st May'
Google translate results - which match word for word with what is on the site

No Peanuts said: “Thanks to what has become the ‘best practice’ for Italian translation agencies – farm projects out to non-native speaking IT>EN translators and pay them badly… this is what Expo 2015 is getting for its money.

“The theme of the Expo, just as a reminder, is ‘Feeding the Planet’.

Underneath a screenshot of one Expo 2015 article entitled “Why Milan” (without a question mark), the blog’s authors said: “We couldn’t agree more. ‘WHY, Milan?’ is exactly the right question to be asking.”

An English-language spokesperson for Expo 2015 was not immediately available for comment.

For many, many more examples, visit

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