China Mom Confession: I HATE Automatic Translators

Thanks to one of my readers and friends, Jackie Park, for the inspiration for this post!

My son’s teacher and I have a lot in common.

We’re both impatient with human translation, and we both can understand what each other is saying with facial expressions, hand gestures, and my basic understanding of Chinese.

We’re also both fiery and headstrong.

Our conversations look like this:

She explains something to me very, very fast.

I ask her to slow down when she speaks.

She slows down for a second, gets excited, and then returns to her normal speaking speed.

I look at our translator and ask for help.


Yet, I would take this face to face talk any day over what happens when we get in a WeChat conversation with each other, relying on the automatic translation instead.

“Your son shit in his pants. No more pants here.”

Crap! Time to go back home, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the word choice she intended.

Teacher: “He has vomit on everyone.”

Me: “Do I need to come pick him up?”

Teacher: “Why?”

Apparently he was just spitting on everyone.  No biggie.

There was also that one time that she thought I scheduled a meeting when in fact I didn’t. Her screenshots of the Chinese translation were so off but hey, at least she didn’t wait too long.

Oh, and my personal favorite time is when she told me he bit a friend. She asked me to talk to the other child’s parents and apologize.

He got in trouble when he got home because biting is not OK.

I knew the other child’s parents and when I saw his mom, I apologized.

“You are too strict on your child! It was just an accident!” She shook her head.

I was mortified.

Of course I apologized to my son but this was absolutely terrible!

Why on earth had the teacher asked me to apologize for this if it wasn’t on purpose? Apparently another parent had kept a grudge against the her and me because neither my husband nor myself reached out to apologize for an incident that happened a year prior.


And that’s why I hate automatic translation.

Time for me to go study Chinese…


What’s the funniest translation blooper you’ve seen? Comment below! Or share screenshots in the WeChat group. 


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Vanessa Jencks founded China Moms Blog to connect internationally-minded parents through semi-humorous stories and poorly-written satire news. She is the former managing editor of beijingkids magazine; see her previous work here. She writes about relationships and faith at

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