Odd Google "Glitch" Translates "Russian Federation" As "Mordor"

Posted: Jan 06, 2016 7:00 PM

Ukrainian speakers using the service Google Translate to translate words into Russian found a few amusing, nationalist-esque "errors" this week. According to Ukrainian news media, entering in "Russian Federation" would result in a translation of "Mordor" (the region of Middle Earth controlled by Sauron in Lord of the Rings), and "Russian" became "occupant." A Russian diplomat's name became "Sad little horse" when plugged into Google Translate.

From the Washington Post:

Russian and Ukrainian are linguistically similar, and Google’s automatic translation service between the two languages is usually quite reliable. At least one major Ukrainian news outlet, Ukrainska Pravda, uses Google Translate to switch its entire site into Russian as its articles are published online. That means that every mention of “the Russian Federation” would have been rendered as “Mordor,” a grim, volcanic region in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” that is the lair of evil. Pro-Ukrainian activists sometimes use the term to refer to Russia.

An unnamed Google spokesman was quoted by RBC Russia as saying that the algorithms used to translate languages were “complex” and that they depend on the context in which words are used in documents and websites found online. “Therefore, there are mistakes and mistranslations, and we try to fix them as soon as possible after finding out about them,” the spokesman said.

Well that's slightly awkward. It's unclear if this was a glitch or an anti-Russian hack of the service.