Explain this Spanish translation for me
November 18, 2013 2:08 AM   Subscribe

I was googling for a Spanish chef called Karlos Arguinaño and found what turned out to be his web site but Google Translate seems to have a wicked sense of humour as every mention of his name is translated as Gourmet Dessert, this made reading the pages very confusing initially. Google Translate seems to not convert the words in isolation or in reverse order but only when the name appears in full. What is going on? Is this some lingustic subtlety or guerrilla branding?
posted by epo to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Google gets most of its information from crawling websites. I assume that somewhere out there, there is one or even more websites where he is directly linked (perhaps even used in a link-text) with Gourmet Dessert, which is not that odd considering he is a chef.
posted by KMB at 2:48 AM on November 18, 2013

Best answer: What's funnier is that this only happens because you are spelling it wrong. It makes no sense, but the "Gourmet Desserts" translation only appears when you mispell it "Arguinaño" instead of the correct "Arguiñano" (you are transposing n and ñ).

So, an explanation. A totally useless explanation. But an explanation nonetheless.
posted by kandinski at 3:01 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ha! I copied and pasted that spelling of the name, so does "Arguinaño" mean anything or is it a nonsense word?
posted by epo at 4:14 AM on November 18, 2013

The hogarutil site still translates as "Gourmet Desserts" even though the original page says Arguiñano. So that isn't the whole story here.

His last name does not mean anything. And "gourmet desserts" is "postres gourmet."

KMB's explanation makes more sense. When you try and translate "gourmet desserts" it is fine. It is the capitalization that makes this strange translation.
posted by vacapinta at 4:18 AM on November 18, 2013

I suspect that someone has used 'Contribute a better translation' in some way to trick Google Translate into thinking that Karlos Arguinano means that, or some other way of futzing with the translation to effect a kind of GoogleBomb on the translate software.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:03 AM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

does "Arguinaño" mean anything or is it a nonsense word

It's nonsense. The "ñ" is pronounced like the gn in bologna or the nh in caipirinha, you usually don't mix the letters around because the pronunciation is quite different.

There are some words with which you don't want to mix n and ñ: "año" means "year", "ano" means anus. "Cono" ("cone") has a similar but inverse problem.
posted by sukeban at 5:09 AM on November 18, 2013

Google Translate works by detecting patterns in previously translated documents. This can lead to some undesirable behaviour.

Here's an example: the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music was released in France as La Mélodie du Bonheur, which literally means The Melody of Happiness, which is a lovely title. If you put La Mélodie du Bonheur into Google Translate, though, it tells you that it means "The Sound of Music" - sort of true but sort of not. If you put the individual words in it translates them literally, but since it's got access to lots of translated documents about La Mélodie du Bonheur it's recognised that when all those words come together it signifies what's called The Sound of Music in English, so it gives the English title instead of the literal translation.

That's an example in which it's correctly picked up on the pattern, but it fairly frequently gets things quite wrong. I'd guess that there was an article translated about Señor Arguinaño which, in Spanish, repeated his name a lot, but in English used personal pronouns and talked about his gourmet desserts a lot, leading Google Translate to incorrectly associate the two-word phrases "Karlos Aguinaño" and "gourmet desserts". When Google Translate has less material to work with it tends to sometimes come up with slightly wacky translations.

Essentially, I think it's a weird consequence of the way that Google Translate algorithmically works out translations for phrases. It doesn't get confused when you give it the words in isolation because it's got a lot of reference for various people named Karlos or Aguinaño, but when it comes to articles talking about Karlos Aguinaño specifically, it's misidentified a pattern that it thinks matches.
posted by spielzebub at 6:10 AM on November 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I noticed something similar recently on the website for a Peruvian bank. Google was translating the link for "Branches in Metropolitan Lima" as "Maharashtra" and "Punjab" Agencies... something obviously got cross-wired in the database.

for those of you playing along at home, here's the link.
posted by yggdrasil at 10:56 AM on November 19, 2013

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