From Iceland — Lost In Google Translation: Rise Of The Machines

Lost In Google Translation: Rise Of The Machines

Lost In Google Translation: Rise Of The Machines

Published January 14, 2021

Photo by
Screenshot/Visir.is

In a news story reporting on various Icelandic conservatives comparing the failed insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6th to Iceland’s mass protests of 2008-2009, the Google translation of “Sjálf­stæðis­menn vilja leggja bús­á­halda­byltingu og á­rásina á þinghúsið í Bandaríkjunum að jöfnu” becomes “Independents want to equate the appliance revolution with the attack on the US Congress.”

For the record, “Búsáhaldabyltingin” is more commonly translated to the “Pots and Pans Revolution.” Calling it “the appliance revolution,” while a direct translation, is more evocative of some kind of post-apocalyptic uprising of the toasters, air fryers and coffee makers that we have come to depend on for our survival. Which is admittedly pretty cool.

Also, these critics are most certainly not “independents,” as most people would understand it. Whereas a political independent is more often than not a closet conservative who fancies themselves a free-thinking iconoclast (with the notable exception of Bernie Sanders), in this Google translation, “Independents” is a direct translation of the name of Iceland’s largest conservative party, Sjáfstæðisflokkurinn, literally “the Independence Party.”

So if you read the Google translation of this news story and didn’t know better: Iceland has yet to experience the robot wars. But our time will come.

Author’s note: the Reykjavík Grapevine does not use Google Translate for any of our news reporting; our news editor is fully fluent in Icelandic.

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