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a journey between language and culture

  • Writer's picturePauline Ninck Blok

Would you buy a house from a machine?

Machines are an important part of our lives, good or bad, that’s the way it is. A robot, machine, computer or whatever we decide to call it, is precise and exact but leaves no room for discussion or negotiation, or an extra touch. Humans are capable of adding a personal note but they can of course make mistakes. If a machine is programmed properly it will work without error; it does what it is programmed to do, even if what it does is wrong. It will correctly repeat the mistake until a human intervenes.

Machine translation can seem very practical to businesses - that do not possess the linguistic tools or translational knowledge to do so - operating at an international level; however, using machine translation is a delicate business. As a translator I personally only use online dictionaries and am amazed at the resources that are freely available to everyone these days. The amount of information we can access is infinite. It often requires a fair amount of research but it is nevertheless a great help when translating. Machine translation is something different; using online resources is not the same as machine translation. One word can have many different meanings and the decision as to which meaning is accurate, depends on a number of things.

I remember seeing an advert by an Italian estate agent years ago which read “…… with two bottoms, cellar and bathroom,…...”. Bottoms? Yes, bottoms. It took me quite some time to figure out what they meant. The Italian word “fondo” means “bottom” as in “bottom of the ocean” or “get to the bottom of it”, but it can also mean “a space on the ground floor which is not used as dwelling”, so basically it means storage space; however, as the first translation is more common, either human or machine chose the first one. I am hoping it was a machine......

Now in this case it was "merely" an advert, I wouldn't dream to think of what their contracts might read. Needless to say that when you buy a house, human intervention is essential; if you buy a property abroad, even more so. You should make sure that you are being assisted by professionals who know what they are doing. it is just as important that they know their languages, or that they are at least assisted by a good translator.

If you are looking for a property in Italy and fear there might be language issues, Margò Immobiliare in Fabro, in Umbria is the place to go.

It is a professional, experienced and dedicated agency, offering multilingual (human!) assistance and an array of services to its clients.

Of course, I am slightly biased as I am part of the team........

More information is available at

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