Baidu, the leading search engine in China, recently unveiled it’s automatic translation site. Language Log messed with it a bit for fun, and came back with something amusing:
Now Baidu has launched a new machine translation service. A friend of mine in China impishly suggested that I give Baidu Fanyi a whirl by typing in 我恨中国. Language Log readers are invited to try it themselves and see what they get.
Between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. this morning, I entered 我恨中国 into the online Baidu translation system half a dozen times, and each time I got back “I love China.” As anyone who has studied first year Chinese knows, Wǒ hèn Zhōngguó 我恨中国 means “I hate China.”
If you type in Wǒ ài Zhōngguó 我爱中国, you also get “I love China,” which is what you’d expect.
If you enter Wǒ hèn Měiguó 我恨美国, you get “I hate the United States of America,” which is as it should be.
Likewise, if you enter Wǒ ài Měiguó 我爱美国, Baidu Fanyi returns “I love the United States of America,” an acceptable translation.
One wonders who is responsible for this glitch (?) in the system, and how long it will take before it is corrected.
He goes on to say that the translation service is otherwise still behind Google Translate. It seems to me that this will likely continue to be the case, until the day when a bunch of Google Translate source code mysteriously ends up in their hands.