The garbled results of dodgy translation services can cause no end of embarrassment. Unfortunately for Google, their embarrassment has been rather more public than a standard miscommunication.
The errors, which appeared on Google Translate’s Ukrainian toRussian service, led to ‘Russian Federation’ being translated as ‘Mordor’ and ‘Russians’ to ‘occupiers’. Mordor is, of course, a volcanic plain in Tolkien’s fictional Middle Earth. The surname of Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, was translated to ‘sad little horse’.
Users of Russian social networking site VK shared screenshots of the mistake.
Google has blamed the mistranslations on the automated nature of the service. The service works by looking for patterns in documents, and many words are translated according to the context in which they are used. This means that many translations are imperfect.
“We always work to correct these as quickly as possible when they are brought to our attention,” Google told BBC News.
It’s not the first time Google has got into hot water because of automated services. Last year, their automatic photo tagging service tagged two black users as ‘gorillas’.