Really lost in translation

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Ray Girvan ("Ibong Adarna: Google Mistranslate", 2/17/2014) documents one of the more bizarre machine-translation oddities in recent years:

Ibong Adarna is the title of a massively popular epic fantasy in the mythology and culture of the Philippines; it originally went under the snappy title of Corrido ng Pinagdaanang Buhay nang Tatlong Principeng, Magcacapatid na Anac nang haring Fernando at nang Reina Valeriana sa Caharian ng Berbania ("Corrido of the Traveled/Travailed Life of Three Princes, Sibling Children of King Fernando and Queen Valeriana of the Kingdom of Berbania"). Despite the Spanish names, it evidently pre-dates the Spanish Era in the Philippines.

You should read Ray's post for more background on the history, form, and significance of this work, whose title means "The Adarna Bird".  Because somehow — mischance? malice? — Google Translate came up with this:

Ray notes that

As you can gather from the synopsis at the Wikipedia page Ibong Adarna (mythology), it's a fairly convoluted story of the adventures of three princes, Pedro, Diego and Juan. The first two conspire against Juan, as they go on a quest to heal their ailing father (who has got ill from worrying about a dream in which two traitors conspire against Juan). The title refers to the Adarna bird that's central to the story and has properties probably unique  for a mythical creature. It has powers of magic and healing, but a dangerous aspect: petrifying poo! At the end of the day it sings seven songs that lull listeners to sleep, changing colour with each song, then defecates – and anyone incautious enough to be underneath is turned to stone. […]

With the individual words, [Google] translates "Ibong" as "Birds" (which is on the right track) and can't translate "Adarna" (which is expected). The problem is only with the phrase "Ibong Adarna". Is it a malicious mistranslation someone submitted to the database? Some inexplicably garbled allusion to the defecating Adarna bird? Or what? Knowing zero about the Filipino language and the workings of Google Translate, I can't fathom it. Any thoughts?

The translation has been fixed now, perhaps as a result of Ray's post:

But some LLOG reader who knows Filipino (and/or has a good imagination) may be able to suggest what happened before the correction was made…


  1. Ray Girvan said,

    February 23, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

    Thanks, Mark! – I hoped it would be of interest.

  2. James C. said,

    February 23, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

    BTW, ‘Filipino’ is essentially the same as ‘Tagalog’. It’s the prestige dialect of Tagalog spoken around Manila that has been elevated to national language status with the name and political support.

  3. Emily said,

    February 23, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

    If only Google Books was this good at dealing with errors that are pointed out…

  4. Chris C. said,

    February 23, 2014 @ 5:47 pm

    Given the Google results for "toilet slave" — which may not be for those with weak stomachs and strong imaginations, and who lack the associated fetish — I can easily come up with a possible slang use of the phrase to approximate that meaning.

  5. Christopher Sundita said,

    February 23, 2014 @ 11:41 pm

    Tagalog speaker, here. I can't think of any reason why Google Translate would translate "Ibong Adarna" as "Toilet Slave." My best guess would be is that someone submitted that as a translation.

    Translation note: "ibon" is the word for "bird" in Tagalog. "ibong" is "ibon" plus the linker "NA" which becomes a velar nasal following vowels, glottal stops, and /n/.

  6. rwmg said,

    February 24, 2014 @ 3:22 am

    Whose crystal ball lets them peek ahead to blog posts from 17 March 2014?

  7. markonsea said,

    February 24, 2014 @ 8:00 am

    That's an easy one: confusion between calendrical systems can cause all sorts of problems!

  8. mollymooly said,

    February 24, 2014 @ 8:45 am

    It's not 17 March, it's 3rd of Septendecimber. Paint Satrick's Day.

  9. tudza said,

    February 24, 2014 @ 7:23 pm

    Wow, it's like the foo bird. If the foo shits, wear it.

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