Going Down The Rabbit Hole: Google Translate

google translate google logo g

People from around the world depend on Google Translate to assist them with reading documents, websites and other content that is not written in their native language. This particular translator has gotten so advanced that even tourists and locals alike are able to use it to almost instantaneously communicate back and forth with each other by speaking into a device, such as an Android smart phone or tablet.

But is there a “darker” side to Google Translate?


Strange translations…

Not long ago, an anonymous image board user discovered something interesting while experimenting with Google Translate. They posted the following (very brief) instructions:

1. Go to Google’s Somali-to-English translator.
2. Type strings of 2 or 3 character long segments (start with “ke ke ke ke ke ke…”).

We decided to try it out for ourselves.

First, we visited translate.google.com. Upon arriving, we saw a text box where we were able to type or paste any message we wanted. The app automatically detected our language (English) presumably based on the location of our IP address.

Next, we pasted the suggested string “ke ke ke ke ke ke.” Here were the results (click each image to enlarge):

google translate results 1

“things together”

This didn’t appear too odd, so we continued by adding four more strings of the above “ke ke ke ke ke ke” message, each separated by a space:

google translate results 2

“the government of the two peoples is the same.”

As you can see, the translation is getting a bit stranger.

After perusing the thread some more, we saw that one user mentioned to leave the language on autodetect (instead of manually changing it to Somali). Another replied with their results; they apparently repeated “de” 240 times and included spaces to separate each word.

After reproducing their results, we found the translation very… interesting, to say the least:

google translate results 3

Google Translate detected the language as Dutch and returned the original, nonsensical message of “de de de de…” into essentially:

“the man… the one who did it…”

At this point, we were thinking it was just Google’s algorithm going bonkers as a result of the ridiculous inputs it was receiving, but as we explored further, we began to think some of these translations may in fact be intentional.


It gets creepier…

This next one actually contained complete sentences, which was surprising considering the input message consisted of “tr” repeated over and over, much like our previous examples. The detected language was Vietnamese:

google translate results 4

The output starts off by saying (numerous times):

“I have a list of my favorite books for my school.”

And ends with:

“Permanent pearls, pearls, pearls, pendants, pendants, pendants, pendants, pendants, pendants, pendants, pendants, pendants”

It appears to be gibberish, but is a bit more sophisticated nonetheless.

One user switched it up by using various characters and “words,” rather than the same two letters over and over. Here were the results:

google translate results 5

Although the translation “Do you have any questions about how to do this?” may seem weird at first, it could just be the system responding to a user, such as a young child, who is banging on the keyboard and submitting babble. Though, you’d think Google would return the same translation for all of our previous inputs…


Not for the faint of heart

We next typed “se yu se yu se yu” multiple times into the text box, as another anonymous user had done in the thread we linked earlier. The input was seemingly detected as Chinese and the output was… well, see for yourself:

google translate results 6

“And if ye see that it is the truth, O ye who believe!”

This may be in reference to a Bible verse. The closest one we could find was John 8:32 (KJV):

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

It is interesting indeed how just two words (“se yu”) repeated numerous times could translate into religious English text. We tried adding more lines; 13 to be exact. Here are the results:

google translate 7

“And if you turn away, then you will come to the king… And if ye turn away, then lo! it is ye who are the losers… No matter what.”

Did we mention we’re officially creeped out?

As you can see in the above translation, some Arabic is included. We copy/pasted it into the input box to see what it said (since we don’t speak Arabic):

google translate results 8

“And those who believe and do good works, if you are one of those who believe and do good deeds, if you were before him… if you were before them.”

Perhaps the Arabic input text became jumbled, but again, how was all of this derived from “se yu,” which, by the way, apparently means “lust” or “sexual desire” in Chinese.


Also, what’s up with the “if you were before them” part? “If you were before him…” makes more sense as “him” could mean “Him” as in God. But, “them” seems a bit more ominous as it reminds us of the “Great Old Ones” from Lovecraftian horror.

Finally, our last and perhaps most disturbing experiment with Google Translate includes a slight variation of what we have been doing up until now. Again, we are using just two letters (“ci”), but we’ve pasted it in a manner to reproduce this image. Here are the results:

google translate 9

It will take it from there to us, it will take you there, it will take you there You will find us there
it’s got us there
it takes us there
it will take you there
it’s there

Pretty spooky, eh?

If you’d like to try it as well, here is the exact text (just copy & paste it here):

ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci
ci ci ci ci ci ci
ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci
ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci
ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci ci
ci ci ci ci ci
ci ci ci ci
ci ci ci
ci

Or, you can click on this link and it will bring you directly to the results.

Feel free to leave a comment if you have used Google Translate and discovered any other strange translations.

Image credits: Google


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