Working With Foreign Buyers? Beware Your Use of Free Translation Software.

Mortgage and Lending with SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) NMLS 223495

Check out the beautiful floor: Mike in Tucson, AZ mortgage lenderAre you working with foreign buyers? 

Let's say that English is difficult for them, so you try to compensate by using one of the many free translation services on the internet.

That free software translation service may not be saying what you intend to communicate. 

Of course, you don't speak your buyer's language, so you have no idea what the actual translation conveys to your buyer, and that miscommunication might leave you looking incompetent, or worse. 

A Reverse Example of Poor Translation

Let's reverse the situation, and pretend that you are the buyer, and that you're looking at a home on the internet in Holland.  The real estate agent's first language is Dutch (Nederlands) and yours is English.

You see this beautiful room on the listing website, with the sun streaming in, and that lovely plank floor. 

A visitor to the website has commented "Zeit er smaakvol uit bei jou thuis."  You email the agent, asking what this means.  The agent, who knows no English, copies the text into the SDL site, clicks the "Translate" button, and sends you this answer:

Well, there you go!  Sees there pleasing from with you home!  The agent has no idea that this is gibberish, and from your puzzled point of view, you aren't much better off than you were before you asked the question.

The meaning is unclear, and you are left to try to wrest clarity from confusion.  It's not easy done, as my Oklahoma ranch friend used to say.

Clicking that "Listen" button won't help either, even if you turn up the volume real loud.  What will help somewhat is clicking the Google Translation button there on the right hand side.  While SDL is in the business of selling human translation by the word at seven cents each, Google is in the business of telling you what you want to know.  Is it any wonder that Google does a better (but still not perfect) job of it?

The problem is that all languages use idiom, where the actual words used have a different meaning in context than what you see on the page or hear when said out loud.  Looks tasty out in your home?  Probably not.  Looks pleasing... is closer to the meaning.

Aren't you glad you stopped by my blog?  Tot ziens!


photo courtesy my facebook friend Diana Apie, who speaks Engels better than I do Nederlands


I'm Mike in Tucson, your preferred Tucson Arizona Mortgage Lender.

NMLS #223495

SUNSTREET MORTGAGE llc ~ Correspondent Mortgage Bank
Offices (AZ) Mesa, Tucson, Sierra Vista, and Nogales.


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Donna Paul
Keller Williams Realty Gold Coast - Dix Hills, NY
Long Island Home Specialist,All About Real Estate

Mike: What a great Idea?.... We can use this with all our foreign buyers. I have to make sure to BOOKMARK this one. THANKS SO MUCH FOR SHARING.

Mar 25, 2011 02:12 PM #1
Margaret Rome, Baltimore Maryland
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Mike, I am always glad when I take time to read your blog!


Mar 25, 2011 02:55 PM #2
Bob & Carolin Benjamin
Benjamin Realty LLC - Gold Canyon, AZ
East Phoenix Arizona Homes

Too funny-- too funny-- we are hoping that our buyers speak English as we do not speak a lot of other languages.

Mar 25, 2011 03:03 PM #3
William J. Archambault, Jr.
The Real Estate Investment Institute - Houston, TX


I've worked with allot of clients that didn't speak English not just any one can translate. Translators have to be tri-lingual. They have to speak English and Mortgage/Real estate and the clients language.

One family I did allot of loans for spoke a family language combining Spanish and Tagalog, they brought me an uncle who spoke no English, only their 13 year old daughter spoke English. Most of the time I dealt with their local family, at the end of a long day I got a call from the daughter. Her Mother wanted to know how long was the loan for? I was tired I said the loan was amortized over 30 years, click!  When I got to work the family was waiting for me, they'd driven in from LA to have my hide! Or worse!!  It seems the girl had taken amortize for some form of Amory. She though I told her I'd love her over 30 years!

The local Uncle arived just in time. I walked out with them, their stairing at me from the back seat with just the top of her head and eyes showing was the young woman. 



Mar 25, 2011 03:34 PM #4
Christine R. Sutherland
Sun Realty USA, Inc. - Punta Gorda, FL

I speak several languages and know how bad the web "translator" are, but I also know  how to interpret them - I am sure that it means "here is a tasteful inside view"

Mar 25, 2011 03:45 PM #5
Jane Peters
Home Jane Realty - Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles real estate concierge services

This is funny, Mike.  I use translation software all the time.  Heaven forbid what I've said to people.

Mar 25, 2011 04:34 PM #6
Steve Scheer
Realty Oasis - Metro Brokers - Highlands Ranch, CO
Highlands Ranch Real Estate - Denver Real Estate

I have relatives that speak German and French fluently.  One evening after dinner we experimented with such software just for fun to see how things were translated.  While there were some good translations, many laughs were had that evening as well.

Mar 25, 2011 06:29 PM #7
Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Clearwater, FL
Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor

Yes, that translation software can indeed bring about problems!!! Most of my buyers speak English, even those from South America, which is great since my only foreign language that is actually fluent is German.

Mar 26, 2011 02:56 AM #8
Brett Reichel
Homebridge Financial Services - Rancho Cucamonga, CA
MLO 210215

Great post - really interesting -  Reminds me of a joke I played on my step daughter once......


Mar 26, 2011 06:06 AM #9
Juli Vosmik
Dominion Fine Properties - Scottsdale, AZ
Scottsdale/Cave Creek, AZ real estate 480-710-0739

Hence, the reason to hire a translator.  On my team of agents, I have agents fluent in Spanish, French, and Italian.  Don't have any one for Deutsch, but my daughter in law is fluent and available by speaker phone or teleconferencing.  Sorry, but no spraeken ze deutsch here.  It's all about who you know. 

Mar 26, 2011 05:11 PM #10
marti garaughty - Montreal, QC
a highly caffeinated creative type...

branding, abstract art, WordPress design and consultation

Mar 27, 2011 03:11 AM #11
Mike Jones
SUNSTREET MORTGAGE, LLC (BK-0907366, NMLS 145171) - Tucson, AZ
Mike Jones NMLS 223495


Thanks for the feature!


Good point!  You don't need to do it all yourself if you know the right people.


We want to hear about the joke.




I'll bet!  Sounds like you had a good time.


You'll be wracking your brain trying to remember.


Good job reading between the lines.


My ex lived in Saudi as a teenager, and her father turned down an offer of 12 camels for her.  It would have been a good deal, actually...


Thanks for stopping by!


Me too!


I'm glad to help!  Thanks for being the first to comment.

Mike in Tucson

Mar 28, 2011 04:50 AM #12
Doug Bullwinkel
Envoy Mortgage, NMLS 6666 - Roseville, CA
Mortgage Loan Originator NMLS #281609

I once had a deaf couple for clients.  We used a laptop to communicate and it all worked out well.

Mar 30, 2011 06:39 PM #13
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