Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Transmission

Google Translate Makes Russia 'Mordor,' Lavrov 'Sad Little Horse'

The surname of Sergei Lavrov, the long-serving Russian foreign minister who has been a prominent and outspoken figure since the crisis erupted between Ukraine and Russia nearly two years ago, was translated as "sad little horse."
The surname of Sergei Lavrov, the long-serving Russian foreign minister who has been a prominent and outspoken figure since the crisis erupted between Ukraine and Russia nearly two years ago, was translated as "sad little horse."
By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW -- Google's hugely popular translation tool has taken to rendering certain Ukrainian words into Russian with a pronounced pro-Kyiv political spin.

On January 5, for instance, "Russian Federation" in Ukrainian (Російська Федерація) was being translated as "Mordor," the fictional realm occupied and controlled by evil necromancer Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien's epic, The Lord Of The Rings.

It was unclear if the mistranslations were the result of a hack, or whether they were due to a malfunction in the algorithms used by Google to power its translation tool.

Meanwhile, the surname of Sergei Lavrov, the long-serving Russian foreign minister who has been a prominent and outspoken figure since the crisis erupted between Ukraine and Russia nearly two years ago, was translated as "sad little horse." 

Google Translate Ukraine-to-Russian translation of Lavrov as "sad little horse"
Google Translate Ukraine-to-Russian translation of Lavrov as "sad little horse"

 

Ukrainian media reported that "Russians" (росіяни) was being expressed as "occupiers," although a test on January 5 failed to produce such a result.

Kyiv and NATO accuse Moscow of providing regular troops, heavy weapons, and other forms of support to pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine since the fighting began, and a United Nations vote confirmed Crimea's continued status as part of Ukraine despite Russia's invasion and annexation of that peninsula in March 2014.

It is not the first time politically charged mistranslations have crept into the Google Translate service between Ukrainian and Russian. The misconstructions tend to cast Russia as a malevolent marauder and Ukraine as its victim in a conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people. But that's not always the case.

According to RBK Ukraine, in November Google Translate rendered "All-Ukrainian" (загальноукраїнських) as "All-Russian."

The news outlet Ukraine 112 reports that in mid-2015, the "Revolution of Dignity" -- one of the many nicknames given to the Euromaidan uprising that overthrew Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych -- was translated into Russian as "political crisis in Ukraine" in what appeared to be a dig at Russian state propaganda.

The wonky translations appear to have lasted online for at least the better part of a day. Ukrainian media first reported on the political inflections on January 4.


Tom Balmforth

Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics.

 

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: cgegv from: tetrbv
January 05, 2016 12:03
bullcrap

by: Orel from: USA
January 05, 2016 13:21
I always knew that machines would become smarter than their makers some day. Google's translation hit it exactly right.

by: Anonymous
January 05, 2016 14:52
Well I'm so sorry for him

by: JLNancy
January 07, 2016 08:02
LOL

Personally, I don’t see anything *wonky* about those translations.:)

One e.g. => given that the Pro-Moscow Orthodox church in Ukraine made a recent decision to ban the Ukrainian language for their parishioners in central Ukraine, the *new* translations can assuredly be quite handy and, in practice, very correct....
“Dear Lord, Please help Mordor exit completely out of Ukraine and help the sad, little horse’s-ass, I mean, help the sad little horse to stop inflicting war, and chaos and his Kremlin’s ideals of obscurantism on our Ukraine.. – Amen”

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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