When it comes to machine translation online, Google Translate and Microsoft’s Bing Translator are serious rivals, not only for custom, but also for the awful quality of the translations they provide.

Social media platform Twitter has – for reasons best known to itself – decided to use Bing to provide translations of tweets in languages other than the user’s mother tongue.

However, it’s not very good, suffering as it does from an inability to deal with context.

Take the screenshot below from a tweet posted by your correspondent earlier this afternoon, who clicked on the Bing translation link out of curiosity.

screenshot showing dreadful Bing translation

Bing has managed to mangle my tweet, which contains a colloquial French expression (i.e. “du bidon“) into the incomprehensible “your reporting is Tin“, complete with capitalisation that was not in my original text. Bidon can indeed be a tin – or can or container – in French, but it also has the meaning of belly or stomach too. Furthermore, besides being a noun, bidon can also be used an an adjective, in which context it means phony or bogus.

Wordreference.com has a brief forum thread on the phrase “c’est du bidon“, which passing Bing Translation developers may like to read.

In the meantime, if any readers out there are contemplating saving money by using online translation tools instead of a human being, you may like to reconsider.

Readers interested in why I was retweeting something aimed at the Mail Online website may like to read Tim Fenton’s post debunking the Mail’s Bataclan torture rumours.