Ingredients of Chinese rice crackers translated by GT phone camera device

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Have you tried the Google Translate app on your phone? It has a camera tool that automatically translates text that you point it to, but it looks like it needs some work for Mandarin…

Here's the list of ingredients in Chinese and properly translated into English:  

I won't go through all of the mistranslations one by one, but will only point out a few representative examples:

1. what gets translated as "sand" comes from "bái shātáng 白砂糖" ("white granulated sugar"), which does occur twice — the second time it recognized "bái 白" ("white") as "zì 自" ("self")

2. "zhīmayóu 芝麻油" ("sesame oil") does occur once, but not four times in succession

3. "kànghuàixiěsuān 抗壞血酸" ("ascorbic acid") comes out as "[Anti-Blood]"

4. "disodium guanylate" ("niǎogānsuānèrnà 鳥苷酸二鈉"), which occurs twice, seems to have been rendered as "Bird City"  

5. "sè 色" ("color") comes out as "Sexual"

6. "réngōng 人工" ("artificial; manmade") usually comes out as "human"

7. "horse" comes from the word for "potato" ("mǎlíngshǔ 馬鈴薯" [lit., "horse-bell-yam"], a southern areal term whose etymology is contested)

If I spent a lot more time, I could probably figure how most of the mistranslations arose, but it's a thankless task, because the order of the items in the Twitter post is scrambled and many of the items are truncated or repeated.

More commentary in the Twitter thread.  


Selected readings

[Thanks to Ben Zimmer]


  1. Luke said,

    February 13, 2021 @ 7:44 am

    At least it didn't mistranslate Electroblood.

  2. Rodger C said,

    February 13, 2021 @ 12:01 pm

    Does the Chinese for "disodium guanylate" actually reference guano?

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    February 13, 2021 @ 1:52 pm

    Well, it includes the "bird" element (鳥, "niǎo") but not the following 糞 (fèn) that one might expect in a literal translation of "guano". Where 糞 (fèn) might be expected, the text has 苷 (gān), and Google Translate tells me that 鳥苷 ("niǎo gān") means "guanosine", a compound consisting of guanine combined with ribose, a nucleoside unit in RNA.

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