Twitter Translations UPDATED

  • Sharebar

Real time translation is great. It even mostly works, some of the time. Facebook has gotten pretty good at it, from what I see. Friends’ posts in Korean or Japanese translate pretty well. When Arabic friends write in Arabic the translation seems pretty accurate - when they use a western keyboard and a phoneticized short hand, Facebook usually fails. But I don’t hold that against Facebook. They’re trying and doing a pretty good job.

Twitter, on the other hand…

Yeah, not so much.

I first noticed this when I posted the following tweet:

Then I retweeted it to Janet Reid, a literary agent whose blog I like to read:

I thought Janet’s response, ‘Feminist commentary?’ was quite witty. Twitter thinks that it is French.

A while later, John Scalzi tweeted, as he’s apt to, a new idea for his next band’s name:

I replied with one that I’d had in my head for a while, saying, “Has 'Benghazi Blonde' been taken?” Twitter thought it was Dutch. Whatever. That’s weird.**

Lastly, there’s this.

Living in a Muslim country (Malaysia) I often run into stories about or from Muslims. One tweet was Duncan Simpson posting a link to an article that explains the Hajj:

Twitter thinks his text, “Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca” is Haitian Creole?

I don’t even know what to say… Twitter. Just stop.


Apparently Twitter thinks that "Khaaaaaaaaaaaan!" is Indonesian.

And "Winter in Switzlerland" is German:

Then there's this apparent Czech tweet:


** As a side note, the name Benghazi Blonde came to me while I was teaching English to a blonde-haired TV reporter from Benghazi, Libya. Even accounting for the fact that many Muslim women from Libya do not wear head scarves outside of the country, she was still an outlier, about as far from your stereotypical Muslim as you could get. Benghazi Blonde was not meant as a reference to Hillary Clinton, although I understand that some have taken it that way.