Archive for Found in translation

Attribution of the WannaCry ransomware to Chinese speakers

The notorious WannaCry malware infestation began on Friday, May 12, 2017 and spread rapidly throughout the world, infecting hundreds of thousands of computers and causing major damage.  Speculation concerning the identity of the perpetrators focused on North Korea, but the supposed connection was never convincingly demonstrated, and there were no other serious suspects.

Yesterday, Jon Condra, John Costello, and Sherman Chu published a stunning report which suggests that the authors of WannaCry — or someone they hired — spoke fluent Chinese:

"Linguistic Analysis of WannaCry Ransomware Messages Suggests Chinese-Speaking Authors" (Flashpoint [5/25/17])

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Found in Translation

"Found in Translation" is the latest in the PBS video series Articulate, exploring how "scholarly translations are a constant battle between literal accuracy and literary interpretation."

Connoisseurs of automated translation follies will appreciate the bit about 4 minutes in when Peter Cole copies some Hebrew into Google Translate and gets the English output, "ui on Lbbc stopped Heather." ("Lbbc" is in the Hebrew original for some reason, so this might not be the best translational task.)

(h/t Grant Barrett)

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Coffee Yao, Finger Chen, Doy Chiang, and colleagues

Thorin Engeseth noticed that, at the end of the Taiwanese video game "Detention", there are some interesting adopted Western names among the people involved in the game's creation — especially Coffee, Finger, and Smiler:

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Backstroke of the West

Patrick Shanley, "'Revenge of the Sith' Dubbed With Bootleg Chinese Dialogue Is a Fan-Made Masterpiece", The Hollywood Reporter 1/3/2017:

YouTuber GratefulDeadpool has done the unthinkable: He's made Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith cool.

Using the original Chinese subtitles, which feature multiple lost-in-translation misinterpretations, GratefulDeadpool redubbed the prequel trilogy's final installment — with hilarious results.

Entitled Backstroke of the West Highlights Part 1 (Star War: The Third Gathers), the recut features such memorable lines as "I has been hating you," from the villainous Count Dooku, and "The front is a lemon avenue flying straightly," spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi while piloting a careening starship.

Dorkly explains the bizarre translations likely "began with a machine translation of the Chinese script to [Revenge of the Sith], which attempted to literally translate from Mandarin to English, despite the multitude of barriers between the two languages." The end result was great quips, such as "Smelly boy" from General Grievous to Kenobi and "Your dead period arrived, teacher" from a rebellious Anakin Skywalker during his fateful lightsaber duel with his master on Mustafar.

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Metatranslation

Huawei Technologies is a Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company.  Mark Metcalf sent in this photograph of a scene at their corporate headquarters in Shenzhen:

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Phono-semantic rebranding

There's a new article on linguistic borrowing by Jane C. Hu in Quartz (10/23/16):  "The genius and stupidity of corporate America are on display when companies rebrand for new countries".  The article originally had a better title:  "Phono-semantic matching is corporate America's best option when trying to rebrand for new countries".

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What's in the sachet?

At my hotel here in Brno, Czechia, the shampoo comes in small sachets, manufactured in Düsseldorf, labeled with the word denoting the contents in a long list of suitable European Union languages. I can't tell you which languages they picked, for reasons which will immediately become apparent. Here are the first four:

  1. Shampoo
  2. Shampoo
  3. Shampooing
  4. Shampoo

Just so you're sure.

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"Do not ignore the mermaids"

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Italy is a dollop

When I wrote the following post, I had an intuition that Yīdàlì 一大粒 ("one big grain / granule / particle / tablet / pellet / kernel / bead / seed"), aside from being a pun for "Italy", meant "one big scoop", and I said as much in the last sentence of the post.

"Italy is one big grain" (9/6/16)

Now, looking into the matter further, I have found that I was right on the mark.

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I am a cat?

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson]

Every once in a very long time, machine translation does something sublime. Usually ridiculous, but just occasionally sublime.

Here's what happened to me the other day.

First, let me begin with a mea culpa: I posted a cat video to the internet. Yes, I finally gave in and committed that gravest of sins. Here's the video:

吾輩は珈琲猫である

A video posted by Nathan Hopson (@gojoppari) on

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Germanglish

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The sounds of Eurasia

A concert entitled "Sounds of Eurasia", held in a church, by a youth orchestra I'd never heard of from somewhere in the -stans region of Central Asia, admission being free and unticketed. It didn't sound too great. But I saw a flyer for it at local shopping center on Saturday, and the event was scheduled for that very evening. I showed the flyer to my friend Carol and we decided (since we could hardly complain about the price) that we would be adventurous and risk it. I wasn't confident; I stressed that in the worst-case scenario we might be in for a a slow and painful lesson teaching us only that Central Asian music was a cacophony of strange whiny-sounding horns and out-of-tune one-stringed bowed instruments and was not for us. "Doesn't matter; you can stand almost anything for an hour or so," she said, gamely insisting we should go.

Boy, did we ever misunderestimate. The Youth Chamber Orchestra of TÜRKSOY is stunningly good. It was an amazing evening.

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Translation variation

For the past week, I've been in Paris attending JEP-TALN-RECITAL 2016 ("31ème Journées d’Études sur la Parole — 23ème Conférence sur le Traitement Automatique des Langues Naturelles  — 18ème Rencontre des Étudiants Chercheurs en Informatique pour le Traitement Automatique des Langues). This event certainly takes the prize for the longest acronym of any conference I've ever attended.

Attending a francophone conference gave me a chance to practice what remains of my high-school French, and the content was worthwhile as well — I heard many interesting papers and saw many interesting posters, about which more later. I haven't posted much during the past week because the internet at the conference site was badly overloaded, and the situation at my hotel was not much better. But now at CDG waiting for my flight there's decent connectivity, so here's a little something about signage translation.

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