Illustration for article titled Rust Yourself To Reformist

Online translation tools are wonderful resources that help people to, if not perfectly, at least make a passable attempt at either understanding a message or communicating a message in another language. They’re mainly intended for study, research, and quick one-off jobs where quality does not matter. They’re definitely not intended to replace professional translation services, and definitely not intended to allow packaging designers to cheapen out on copy writing and end up making a trusted and venerable institution like Rust-Oleum look like a lazy purveyor of cheap tat to the same population that you’re trying to reach with said translation.


Take this can of rust reformer for example. The name of the product is obviously written in the indicative mood, telling us that the product reforms rust. This should’ve been translated to “reformador de oxidación”, keeping the indicative mood and the adjectival phrase in the correct grammatical position. The translation software, though, read “rust” as a verb, assumed an imperative mood, and because imperatives are always addressed to the second person, conjugated it to second person singular and then appended a reflective pronoun, ending up with “oxídese,” literally telling the reader to rust herself.

The translation of “reformer” is even worse. Here we have a verb-derived noun in the nominative case with a Latin root that takes zero effort to translate to Spanish. Instead, it got translated into the objective case, and the -er ending changed to the -ist ending, which means the same in English and Spanish.


If you do product package design, please dont skimp on translation. You'll just look stupid.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter