US-based social network platform, Facebook, has just gotten themselves into an embarrassing situation when its translation feature had mistranslated Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s name. The issue was spotted during the second day of the President’s visit to Myanmar, where both countries were signing dozens of agreements for Beijing-backed infrastructure projects.
When Xi Jinping’s name was mentioned on Aung San Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page, it was referred to as “Mr Sh*thole” when translated from Burmese to English. On local news journal, Irrawaddy, a news headline was reported to be translated as “Dinner honors president sh*thole” on Facebook.
A Facebook spokesperson has apologised for the offence the error has caused and they emphasised that it isn’t a reflection of the way their products should work. According to a statement, Facebook has fixed the Burmese to English translation issue and they are working to identify the cause to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Apparently, this isn’t the first translation error Facebook had encountered for the Burmese language. In 2018, the social network had temporarily disabled the translate function as it was producing unintended results. According to Reuters’ report, an anti-Rohingya post was translated to “I shouldn’t have a rainbow in Myanmar.” Even on Facebook’s own Community Standards guidelines, the phrase “we take our role in keeping abuse off our service seriously” was translated to “we take our role seriously by abusing our services.”
On Google Translate, President Xijinping’s name in Chinese is simply translated as “Xi Jinping” in Burmese. But here’s the interesting bit, if you try to translate Sh*thole to Burmese, it returned “ချစ်သူ”. And if you translate that back to English, it is translated as “lover”.
Perhaps Burmese is still a very complicated language for machines to translate. But to turn a person’s name to “Sh*thole” is a very serious blunder. What do you think went wrong? Is it really a bug or was it caused by mischievous staff at Facebook? Let us know in the comments below.