In a rather hilarious turn of events, Google translate has been making some conversions that most people would find a tad inaccurate. When going from Ukrainian to Russian, the word “Russia” would show “Mordor,” “Russians” translated to “occupiers,” and Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov became “sad little horse.”
But why did the errors occur? My guess is Ukrainian spies with a sense of humour but, in a recent statement, Google disclosed that these translations were an undesired product of Google’s automated translation system. Drawing from the huge number of indexed documents at Google’s search engine’s disposal, their translating software defines patterns to improve their conversion in different contexts.
“When Google Translate generates a translation, it looks for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents to help decide the best translation,” Google’s statement reads.
“Automatic translation is very difficult, as the meaning of words depends on the context in which they’re used. This means that not all translations are perfect, and there will sometimes be mistakes or mistranslations.”
After Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of the Crimean region, the derogative terms became widely used by Ukrainian soldiers and activists, tricking the system into believing that they are the correct translations for the terms.
Right now the system’s been fixed and translation gives accurate (and sadly way less funny) results, but screenshots of the botched translations are still being passed around on Russia’s Facebook equivalent, VKontakte.
When even Google Translate thinks your country is a dark dreadful place full of orcs, maybe that’s a sign that you’ve done something very very wrong. Like an invasion. Just saying.