In the ancient world, prophecies came from shamans with crystal balls, witches with bubbling potions, and soothsayers who spoke in tongues. In the 21st century, they come from computer programs.
Google Translate is returning strange religious translations for seemingly innocuous phrases in obscure languages. As reported by Vice, these translations can be surprisingly elaborate, even when the input is a single word repeated over and over. For instance, simply translating “dog” written twenty times over from Maori, the indigenous language of the people of New Zealand, to English returns this phrase: “Doomsday Clock is three minutes at twelve. We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus’ return.”
So my friend discovered that if you type dog into google translate 20 times (Hawaiian to English) its uhhhhhhh the most horrifying thing ?????????? pic.twitter.com/qWFuPLWLYb
— Titanium! (@TommyWeber88) July 14, 2018
If that sounds creepy, it isn’t a one off. In another instance, writing ‘”ag” twenty times and translating from Somali to English throws up this cryptic result: “As the name of the LORD was written in the Hebrew language, it was written in the language of the Hebrew nation.”
And apart from the religious warnings, sometimes Google Translate also seems to answer questions. Asking “Who controls the world” in Somali, with the words broken up randomly, returns the English result “This is the role played by you”
And Google Translate seems to have a personality of its own as well. When users ask it to translate “Sangria wine,” a Spanish cocktail that’s served with fruits, Google Translate returns the English result as “It was awesome.”
the google translate demon is an intellectual pic.twitter.com/1eg0vSRCj5
— jase || 6 days (@postupcabello) May 27, 2018
The internet, of course, can’t get enough of these bizarre translations. A reddit subreddit called TranslateGate is documenting these instance of Google Translate going haywire, and theories are rife about what’s causing the glitches. One theory seems to suggest that the religious nature of the translations is caused party by the kind of texts Google uses to train its translation machine learning models — since the Bible is available is nearly every language, Google uses it as an input source in its training models. Another says that in languages where there isn’t a lot of literature that’s translated into English — say Somali or Maori, which seem to have the most number of odd results — the algorithm simply picks up passages from the Bible and returns them as translations. And some others have simply blamed dark forces at work, and while not the most scientific theory, it should give us pause — translating “Am i going to die” from Somali returns a simple but poignant “On the other side”.