The other day I quoted a Google Translate version of something that I had received in Albanian. Yesterday I commented on the Facebook page of a shop I visit in Barcelona that had posted this, later confirmed to have been done by Google:
We you inform that during August we will have the shop opened. These are the schedules for this month:
TOMORROW of Tuesday to Saturday of 11 h to 14 h.
AFTERNOONS of Monday to Saturday of 17 h to 20 h
This includes a classic failure to realise that in this case mañanas, which is in the plural in Spanish, means mornings, not tomorrow.
So I was especially interested when a friend drew my attention to this Google translation of an item on the BBC news Russian site.
Популярный британский актер и писатель Стивен Фрай поддержал кампанию против российского закона, запрещающего пропаганду нетрадиционных отношений среди детей.
В социальных сетях кампания проводится под лозунгом "Бойкотируй Россию" (хэш-тэг в Twitter - Нажать #BoycottRussia).
В Нажать своем микроблоге Фрай написал: "Пожалуйста, прочитайте это и сделайте все, что в ваших силах, чтобы люди осознали весь ужас ситуации". Он также дал ссылку на текст, в котором проводятся параллели между гонениями на евреев в нацистской Германии перед Олимпиадой 1936 года и притеснением сексуальных меньшинств в путинской России, организующей через полгода олимпийские игры в Сочи.
Стивен Фрай является открытым геем и в марте этого года приезжал в Петербург, чтобы взять интервью у депутата петербургского заксобрания Виталия Милонова, который прославился как инициатор запрета пропаганды гомосексуализма.
10 августа Нажать в Лондоне пройдет акция протеста против ущемления прав геев и лесбиянок в России, которую первоначально планировалось провести перед российским посольством, однако из-за большого количества выразивших желание в ней участвовать акция перенесена в другое место.
Также ЛГБТ-сообщества в США и Великобритании призывают бойкотировать русскую водку в знак протеста против ущемления прав геев и лесбиянок в России.
Российский закон вызвал жесткую критику в Европе и Америке и спровоцировал призывы к бойкоту Олимпиады-2014 в Сочи.
The popular British actor and writer Stephen Fry has supported the campaign against the Russian law prohibiting the promotion of non-traditional relationships among children.
With social networking campaign under the slogan "Boycott Russia" (hash tag in Twitter - Press # BoycottRussia ).
In his microblog Press Fry wrote : "Please read this and do everything in your power to make people aware of the full horror of the situation." He also made reference to the text, which draws parallels between the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany before the Olympics in 1936 and the oppression of sexual minorities in Putin's Russia, after six months organizing the Olympic Games in Sochi.
Stephen Fry is openly gay and in March of this year came to St. Petersburg , who became famous as a proponent of the ban promotion of homosexuality.
August 10 Press in London Protest against the infringement of the rights of gays and lesbians in Russia, which was originally scheduled to be held in front of the Russian embassy, but due to a large number expressed a desire to participate in it action moved elsewhere.
As the LGBT community in the United States and Britain urged to boycott Russian vodka in protest against the infringement of the rights of gays and lesbians in Russia.
Russian law has caused strong criticism in Europe and America and triggered calls for a boycott of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Apart from the error in
a proponent of the ban promotion of homosexuality.
which could easily be a typo or editing glitch, and
due to a large number expressed a desire to participate in it
which couldn’t, it is hard to fault this translation (from the point of view of the English language. My Russian is no longer good enough to consider its accuracy as a translation.). It is really very good for machine translation, even remarkable in the way it handles names. Стивен Фрай would be transliterated as Stiven Fray, so even if Google can understand names it might well have opted for Steven instead of Stephen. Fry is the most common form but it is not that common a name and Frei and Frey are also possible. Google often simply leaves words that it cannot translate; how did it know what to do here? Even more remarkable, however, is what happens in the fourth paragraph:
интервью у депутата петербургского заксобрания Виталия Милонова,
the translation is
to interview the deputy of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg Milonova Vitali
making interview a verb while in the original it is a noun, as if it were
an interview with the deputy of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg Milonova Vitali
His name in Russian (Russian Wikipedia) is Виталий Валентинович Милонов, conventionally transcribed as Vitaly Valentinovich Milonov (English Wikipedia). Ignoring the patronymic we see that not only has the order of the two names been changed, but in the original it is in the genitive case following the preposition у (u): Vitalya Milonova. Somehow, in the translation the forename has been put into the nominative case, as is usual, but the surname has been left in the genitive.
The rest of the page is variable. The headlines below this article contain these selected items:
London's gay community boycotts the Russian vodka
Murmansk: a case of gay propaganda did not consider
Politicians in Russia lowered dogs Bloodhound Gang
Putin surprised the sentence opposition activist Alexei Navalny
The statues of Churchill and Thatcher protect against superstitious deputies
A Google translation of Stephen Fry’s Russian Wikipedia entry says (my emphasis):
In an article by Stephen Fry called the owner of the brain the size of Kent. In 2003, the newspaper «Observer» named him among the 50 most ridiculous people ever born in the world, and two years later did the same professional comedians. He was nominated for the "Golden Globe", his film received the "Oscar", and the books became bestsellers.
(В 2003 году газета «Observer» назвала его в числе 50 самых смешных людей,)
According to Wiktionary, смешной means
1. funny, comic, droll
2. laughable, ridiculous, ludicrous
so it seems that Google has once again guessed at the wrong word; and it is also unable to replace the non-English chevrons with inverted commas. Of course, the Observer actually presented ‘the 50 funniest people in Britain’, not in the history of the world.
What is happening? A possible answer is that when Google presents a translation it displays the original in mouse hover, and if a URL is pasted into Google as the source the translation is presented in a format that mimics the original post and the mouse-hover box has a link to ‘Contribute a better translation’. It seems likely that somewhere some enthusiastic person is doing just that. Another possibility is that the BBC prepares translations to be made available if required. That seems implausible, certainly given the headlines quoted above; and if the BBC does have these translations, why doesn’t it post them on its English site? But this is all speculation. If anyone has any better knowledge of how Google does its translations of popular pages for big multilingual organisations, please comment below.