Russia is home to the Lord of the Rings’ fiery, evil kingdom of Mordor, and its foreign minister is a “sad little horse,” according to a Google Translate “technical error” that left the search giant scrambling.
Translate users began noticing the translations in the service’s Ukrainian to Russian function over the weekend, and posted screenshots on social media, The Telegraph reported.
Some of the translations: Russians are “occupiers” – an apparent reference to its annexation of Crimea – Russia is “Mordor” and the surname of Sergey Lavrov is “grustnaya loshadka”, or “sad little horse”.
The word for “Russians” translated to “okkupanty”, or “occupiers,” in an apparent reference to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for a secessionist armed movement in east Ukraine.
In the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which began nearly two years ago, Ukrainian soldiers and activists have often referred to Russia as “Mordor,” the lair of chaos in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic, according to The Telegraph.
An embarrassed Google said in a statement to Russia media that the mistranslations were due to a “technical error.”
Although they appear to be the work of mischievous pro-Kiev activists, Google said in a statement released to Russian media that its translation programme is entirely automatic and the mistranslations were the result of “technical error”.
“When Google Translate creates an automatic translation, it uses examples from hundreds of millions of documents, in order to distinguish which variant is most appropriate,” the company said.
Automatic translation, the company added, “is a very complex system, since the meaning of words depends on the context in which they are used.”
On Tuesday, the bug appeared to be fixed, with the Ukrainian versions of “Russian Federation,” “Russian,” and “Lavrov” all rendering into their near-identical Russian equivalents.
Earlier, Google confirmed it had invited a small group of users to help test a new password-free way to sign into their accounts. “‘Pizza’, ‘password’, and ‘123456’ — your days are numbered,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement, referring to some of the most common passwords and secret question answers people use.