Google Offends Azerbaijan with Translation Errors

There’s no doubt that automated and computerized translation services are convenient when you’re doing a simple translation of a lyric you heard or something someone said to you in passing. However, time and again we are reminded that these automated translations often contain errors, and their translations shouldn’t be considered final. Even Google translate can make serious errors in its translations, which is what has Azerbaijan citizens up in arms. Google translate makes grave errors when translating simple geographical names related to Azerbaijan.

Google is Incorrectly Naming Azerbaijan Cities in its Translation

When translated into Russian, the names of certain geographical locations in Azerbaijan are seriously incorrect. In many separate cases, the city of Baku was translated into “Istanbul” and Azerbaijan was translated into “Turkey.” These are separate areas entirely, and they should not be confused with Azerbaijan or its cities. The ambivalent translator service obviously didn’t mean to offend anyone in the translation, but Azerbaijan citizens are offended that their country would be so easily confused with another.

Some Worry that the Mistakes are Intentional

Raed Alekperli is the technical director of Azerbaijan’s Delta Telecom, which is essentially the backbone of the Internet there. He explained that he was worried the incorrect translations were actually a prank pulled by Azerbaijan’s ill-wishers. Since users can interactively help Google translate “learn” different translations, people might have purposely called correct translations incorrect, and changed them to offend the people of the country. While there’s no way of proving this, it certainly calls out one of the major flaws in Google’s crowdsourced translations. Instead of having a single professional translator create the database, Google allows its users to have a say in the translations. Crowdsourcing translations can usually lead to more accurate results and a larger database, but Alekperli is correct in worrying about people using the ability for evil instead of good. The anonymity of the Internet can make people do mean things for no reason.

The Google translate errors in regards to Azerbaijan won’t cause a world war or any serious scuffles, but it definitely draws attention to and reminds us of the flaws of automated translation. It goes to show that if you need to make a serious business or technical translation for your company or business, hiring a professional translation service would be wiser than entering your thoughts into Google translate. It’s easy to offend people with grossly incorrect translations.


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