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Courant En Español – Have Fun, Get Angry

Courant En Español – Have Fun, Get Angry

By Bessy Reyna

A few days ago while reading Courant.com I noticed the tab Courant en Español. The “Spanish” I found was so appalling that I decided to share some of the headlines with my Spanish-speaking friends.

Their reactions ranged from “This isn’t even Spanglish” to “Did you see the one today about Norwich? It’s to laugh and cry at the same time.” Others thought it was simply lack of respect and yet another way to humiliate the Latino community.

It’s hard to imagine that the Courant, the oldest continuously-published newspaper in the country, would think so little of its readers as to publish a poorly worded computer generated translation, without anyone verifying that the versions are grammatically correct. Or does the paper think that Latinos are going to be ever so grateful to have to guess the meaning of the news in Spanish?

It has been very hard for me to choose which one of these “translations” I consider more outrageous. Because of this, I am including some, so each of you can choose your favorite.

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?

The “Odd” process to choose the Chief of Police, also editorialized, was translated as “Proceso de Odd por elegir un jefe de la policía” (It probably refers to the “unusual” process to select the chief but seems to imply that Odd is a name.)

I will stop now because I would like to give our readers an opportunity to discover the hidden vines climbing the trees of the so-called Spanish language, being offered to us by the Courant. (Use the comment section below for your favorite examples of funny or unusual translations from other publications.)

But before I close I have to share with you two of my favorite headlines:”El hombre florero Over Head Smashed novia, policía dice” Literal translation: “The man flower vase Over Head Smashed Girlfriend, police said” and, the one about “10 detenidos en el busto de la prostitución en Norwich” Literal translation: 10 arrested at the bust of prostitution in Norwich. Does that mean they were arrested while hanging-out by a bust honoring prostitution in Norwich?

Am I being too nasty? It must be so hard for the poor translator working 24-7 inside a computer program, to figure out that in Spanish, the “slang” word “bust” for “arrest” can mean either “women’s breast” or a “sculpture.”

Have fun. Get angry. I have certainly done enough of both.

(Bessy Reyna is an opinion columnist for CTLatinoNews.com whose views do not necessarily reflect those of this website. She is a former opinion columnist for the Hartford Courant and the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Connecticut Center for the Book.)


25 Responses to Courant En Español – Have Fun, Get Angry

  1. Karen Grava says:

    You are not being nasty. But it is funny.

  2. […] articles into Spanish. As poet and former Hartford Courant opinion writer Bessy Reyna points out in CTLatinoNews.com, the results can […]

  3. Nancy Correa says:

    Bessy, the article is hilarious and sad at the same time. I cannot believe that The Hartford Courant would expend so little effort- especially considering the large Latino population in Hartford.
    You are not being nasty, you are being observant.

  4. Nacho Meneses says:

    I just find this appalling. I’m a journalist and Spanish teacher (in fact, I worked in CT for three years) from Madrid, Spain. In my opinion, as a former Courant reader and as a reporter myself, even with journalism going through such difficult times not even the oldest and supposedly more trustworthy papers take the time, effort, money and resources to do the kind of professional job their readers and the Latino community deserve.

  5. Luis Figueroa says:

    Bessy, many thanks for alerting us about this. It is both appalling and hilarious. I will spread the word.

  6. Alicia says:

    Great article, Bessy!

    I agree that although the translations are funny, it is indeed sad that this is all they can do. Why did they translate it? I have the impression that authorities and media are using Spanish because it is cool, but without any real purpose. If they really want to reach the latino community, they should start by being more respectful for their language.

    If they translated it correctly, they would not only reach the latino community, but it would become a useful tool for people learning Spanish. Probably none at the newspaper considered this…

    I have a reverse example. The name of the President of the Government of Catalonia (a region in Spain) is Artur Mas. The Catalan Government used Google Translate to translate their website into English and his name appeared as ‘Arthur More’. They closed the English site as soon as they managed, but by then we had all spread the word about this funny mistake :).

    Greetings from Spain!

  7. jp says:

    they are likely just putting the english article into ‘google translate’ or a similar program.

    • Bessy Reyna says:

      jp…you are probably right but that doesn’t diminish the fact that the “Spanish” being printed is incorrect and insulting to those of us who care about our language and communities.
      AND thanks to all you responded to my first blog, hope you will read the next one.

      • jp says:

        i’m not defending the practice – it’s insulting to spanish-speakers as well as news-seekers generally. personally, i’ve cancelled my subscription to the courant for its role as a leading voice against the interests of working people. good luck with the blog!

  8. Catherine says:

    I think they are simply clueless. I hope that is the problem, but perhaps I am too hopeful. Thank you for raising our awareness. It is such a great example of the ineptitude of computer-generated translations and those who trust them. One would think a newspaper would have more sensitivity to the nuances of language.

  9. Nitza says:


    It is a shame that the Hartford Courant would act like they are clueless. I do not beleive that they do not know anyone who can write in Spanish and/or translate for them. They are not clueless. They may simply beleive that we may not complaint. It is important that all of us unite and tell others that Enough is enough!

  10. […] Bessy Reyna In my July 17 Opinion Courant En Español – Have Fun, Get Angry I wrote about the translation problems I encountered when attempting to read the tab “Courant […]

  11. […] refers to the “unusual” process to select the chief but seems to imply that Odd is a name.),” Reyna wrote for CTLatinoNews. “I will stop now because I would like to give our readers an opportunity to discover the hidden […]

  12. […] post, an opinion article by Bessy Reyna, a well-known author and writer who first noticed the discrepancy caused by a […]

  13. […] Courant columnist Bessy Reyna collected some of the most ridiculous examples of poor translation on her blog. Here are a couple of the juiciest nuggets of failure on […]

  14. […] where credit is due. This issue was first revealed by Bessy Reyna, an opinion columnist with CtLatinonews.com, and she continues to do follow-up columns on her initial report. Bessy is also a former opinion […]

  15. A few years ago, We received in Dallas a press release from ICE, in spanish:

    Los agentes del hielo arrestaron a cinco traficantes…AGENTES DEL HIELO???? WTF!!!!

    The ICE agents arrested five smugglers…

  16. A Voice says:

    Shame on The Courant’s marketing attempt, by using Google Translate, to reach Latinos in CT. This is utterly offensive, insulating and humiliating. When the media runs a story and produces inaccurate context, pronounces a name wrong, or embarrasses someone they quickly apologize. Where’s the apology in getting an entire section wrong and butchering a language? A disclaimer acknowledging limitations on the Spanish section = NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Enough is enough. 101 in journalism, if you are not sure about it or you don’t have a reliable source, then don’t write about it.

    Hartford Courant this is to you: hire Latino editors and try to save your reputation or take down your ridiculous and laughable attempt at the Spanish language.

  17. […] of the blog should know, the results were predictable.   Former Courant writer, Bessy Reyna posted some of the more appalling […]

  18. […] refers to the “unusual” process to select the chief but seems to imply that Odd is a name.),” Reyna wrote for CTLatinoNews. “I will stop now because I would like to give our readers an opportunity to discover the hidden […]

  19. exaflops says:

    Yes, Spanish is pretty complicated. There are tons of exceptions. Verb conjugations is way harder than in english. But Spanish is a very rich languaje, when you domine it you can paint your world with words.

  20. […] Courant En Español – Have Fun, Get Angry | ctlatinonews.com http://ctlatinonews.com/Or does the paper think that Latinos are going to be ever so grateful to have to guess the meaning of the news in Spanish? It has been …. they are likely just putting the english article into 'google translate' or a similar program. […]

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