Nice, careful, professional work by the Federal Emergency Management Agency!
After a typhoon caused extensive damage to homes along Alaska’s western coast in September, FEMA’s job was to help residents repair property damage. Since most of the residents were native Alaskans, FEMA chose Accent on Languages, a Berkeley, California company, to translate its usual instructions on how to apply for aid.
They chose…poorly. The documents victims of the typhoon received would have been right at home in the Monty Python skit that featured translation book howlers like “My hovercraft is full of eels.” The Yup’ik and Inupiaq translations were nonsense. “Tomorrow he will go hunting very early, and will nothing,” read one mysterious passage. “Your husband is a polar bear, skinny,” another said. One document had bee translated into Inuktitut, an indigenous language that nobody uses in Alaska.
FEMA fired the translation company. It appears that the words in the “translated” documents were randomly lifted taken from Nikolai Vakhtin’s “Yupik Eskimo Texts from the 1940s.” “They clearly just grabbed the words from the document and then just put them in some random order and gave something that looked like Yup’ik but made no sense,” concluded an investigator.
The company’s CEO wrote, “We make no excuses for erroneous translations, and we deeply regret any inconvenience this has caused to the local community,” adding that FEMA would be getting a refund.
Source: Associated Press