Maybe some people just have too much time on their hands.
Or, maybe there’s something very weird going on with Google Translate.
As they say at Fox News, “We report, you decide.”
For example, try this at home.
Go to Google Translate and type in Māori: “dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog dog” – yes, that’s the word dog exactly 19 times. Nine times or 18 just won’t do. Then translate to English.
Now translate that into Māori, the Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the indigenous Māori people of New Zealand, and one of the national languages.
What do you get?
“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.”
Surprised? So are a group of curious posters on a Reddit.com mega-thread that has been, for whatever reason, putting Google Translate to the test for months. In fact, some members of the group are downright spooked by what they are finding.
And that’s hardly the only anomaly that’s been found, apparently after much rigorous testing.
Try translating this unlikely Somali phrase – ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag ag – yes, that’s ag 21 times. What do you get when you translate to English?
“As a result, the total number of the members of the tribe of the sons of Gershon was one hundred fifty thousand.”
In the Bible we learn Gershon was one of the sons of Levi. It was not a tribe, but part of the tribe of the Levites. In the Book of Numbers, it is explained, this priestly class worked in the Tabernacle for the high priest Aaron and his sons. But Numbers 4:38 says there were only 2,630 between the ages of 30 and 50 qualified to do such work. So, what does this mean? It seems someone – or something – at Google Translate is messing with the minds of the people with too much time on their hands.
But, play around with the number of “ags” and you will get more bizarre results. Ten will get you this result: “And its length was one hundred cubits at one end.”
That would be the length of the south side court of fine linen hangings in the Tabernacle, according to Exodus 27:9, in case you were interested.
Add another “ag” and you get this mysterious result: “And they came to be at the gates of the valley, by the valley of it.”
Twenty “ags” will get you this: Numbers 620 NLT. Numbers 26.31 NL: Numbers 6.31 NL: Nom.
What is Numbers 6:20 in the New Living Translation of the Bible? “Then the priest will lift them up as a special offering before the Lord. These are holy portions for the priest, along with the breast of the special offering and the thigh of the sacred offering that are lifted up before the Lord. After this ceremony the Nazirites may again drink wine.”
What does Numbers 26:31 say? “The Asrielites, named after their ancestor Asriel. The Shechemites, named after their ancestor Shechem.” Is that clear?
Results like these are being called everything from “sinister religious prophecies” to the spouting of “deranged oracles” to “a glitch predicting the Second Coming of Christ.”
It’s all very strange. But it has become a cottage industry at Reddit, so much so that the site has posted instructions for newbies getting on board.
What’s going on here?
Google overhauled its online translation services using a giant neural machine translation model, an artificial intelligence system that uses natural language processing to encode and decode words in different languages. That takes lots of practice. One theory is that the AI robots are being fed Bibles and other literary material that is heavily translated in print. After all, the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures are the most widely translated texts in the world, though it’s hard to imagine the Google culture inundating its vaunted robots with the Bible.
Not all of the strange results are inspired by the Bible, however. For instance, ask for a Somali-to-English this spelling-challenged question: “W hy ar e th e transla tions so wei rd?”
Results? “It’s a great way to make it so much better.”
Now, that’s weird.