Google Translate: Gist Based Translations and Political Risk

Today this abstract found an interesting claim that was doing the rounds on Twitter relating to an El Pais article published 8th April 2014 and a claim that it reported that UK Prime Minister David Cameron had stated that he would not respect a Yes referendum vote.

Whilst there are some ongoing credibility problems for officialdom on this issue, and despite appearances this abstract is not completely partisan, this seemed worth investigating further.

The article which was making the claim is a blog post on the Boiling Frog site:

This article has been duplicated here:

To quote:

Cameron has no intention of honouring an out vote in the unlikely event one would occur. In an interview with the Spanish El Pais with the headline quote from Cameron; “The best solution for the UK is to stay in a reformed EU”, he was asked the following (via Google translate):

In case of a Yes victory in the referendum that will organize onleaving the EU, would you be willing to withdraw from the Union?

And Cameron’s response:

I would not. (No me gustaría)

That Cameron makes such an admission – of willfully ignoring a referendum vote – in a foreign newspaper is revealing. Truly he’s the child of Europe, his hero evidently instead is Barroso (EU Commission President):

“They must go on voting until they get it right.”

Slightly amazingly “cast-iron” has managed to sink even lower.

Pretty damning Op Ed, potentially devastating if backed up by the source.

Now the source is here:

Running this through Google translate, the offending response this abstract got on the first attempt is:

I would hate. (No me gustaría)

The clue to the error in the blog post, and proof that the Op Ed is seriously flawed, is actually quoted in the blog article:

I would not. (No me gustaría)

Some Spanish theory:

The verb ‘to like’ is: gustar

Conditional tense structure for first person (me = I) is: gustaría

A correct, and literal, translation is:

I would not like. (No me gustaría)

Whatever the reporter recorded of Cameron’s words indicated that he was emotionally neutral in expressing a political fact that he would not like a Yes vote. There is no indication in the El Pais report that he stated he would not honour a Yes vote – as the erroneous Boiling Frog translation suggests.

Where could the error have come from ?

Applying Hanlon’s Razor, malicious intent on the part of the Boiling Frog translator can be discounted, and the error can be accounted for through a form of ‘supidity’: In this case a lack of experience using the Google Translate tool.

Google Translate is not a 100% perfect translator: No electronic translation tools are, simply because machines still do not understand ‘context’ and are limited by however good the individuals who built them built them to be.

With Spanish one has to be careful with Google Translate.

The tool will offer alternative translations – these are not necessarily correct either, but are offered  because the tool designers know it is not perfect. When used properly it is effective, but that requires a little understanding of the language.

The alternative translation of: ‘I would hate’ demonstrates this limitation of Google Translate quite nicely.

In Spanish, the verb to hate is: odiar

Conditional tense structure for first person (me = I) is: odiaría


Yo me odiaría (I would hate)

Now, in discussion with a third party they raised the point that the intention was roughly the same: I would hate = I would not like.

This abstract disagrees as the emotional content of ‘hate’ is much more obvious – it is a very much stronger expression of intent, and clearly by the verb used in the report not reflective of the expression of dislike.

That Google Translate offers the ‘hateful’ expression as a synonym for dislike should now be as curious to you the reader, as it is to this abstract.

This abstract will finally point out that the construction of Babel ended when language was confounded.



About EU Funded Pro EU Troll

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