Reporters from WFTV in Florida got a chance to ask Kathleen Sebelius about the Spanish-language portal on Healthcare.gov, which had been plagued with same functional problems as the main site but had mistranslations added to the confusion. It’s a good thing they asked their questions in English, because the HHS Secretary is muy malo at Español, as it turns out. While Sebelius assured reporters that the problems had been resolved, they kept finding even more issues when they checked the site themselves (via Daniel Halper):
Sebelius told Channel 9 a team of people are looking through the website to make sure the Spanish version is accurate, but Alvarez looked through it and found there’s a lot of work left to do.
“My understanding, it’s a much better user experience now,” Sebelius said. …
For “monthly payment,” the website uses the word “prima,” but to Nieves, it means “female cousin.”
Alvarez and Nieves looked through the Spanish version of HealthCare.gov and found sloppy translations are still to be found.
In one instance, the site reads, “Costo de bolsillo.”
“They’re trying to say, ‘Out of pocket cost,’ but they’re actually saying, ‘Cost of my pocket,'” said Alvarez.
“Exactly. It doesn’t make sense, does it?” said Nieves.
This looks like the kind of mistake that novices make when they try to learn a new language. They take idioms from English and create literal translations, rather than learn the cultural idioms of the new language for themselves. It also looks suspiciously like a computer-generated translation of the English-language text from the main site — perhaps provided by Google or Bing in a page display.
The reporters from WFTV thought that the latter might be the explanation, but Sebelius denied that computers were used for translations. Instead, Sebelius explained that jargon doesn’t translate well. No, seriously:
“Terminology in insurance is pretty arcane, even in English and… they probably didn’t have the smoothest transition into Spanish,” Sebelius said.
Er, how “arcane” are the terms “monthly payment” and “out of pocket costs”? I’d bet insurers in Mexico, Spain, and South America have found ways to express those concepts without resorting to “female cousin” and the cost of a pocket.
“Tonight, we’re hearing only excuses from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius,” the report begins, “about sloppy translations on the Spanish version of the ObamaCare website.” That’s an accurate description of everything we’ve heard from the Obama administration about this debacle from the beginning.