Feeds

Babbling net software sparks international incident

Translation engine insults Dutch Consulate

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Updated A word of advice: Never use an online translation engine to communicate with the Dutch Foreign Minister.

Last weekend, a group of Israeli journalists used a translation engine in sending an email message to the Dutch Consulate in Tel Aviv. They wanted to discuss an upcoming visit to The Netherlands for a seminar on Dutch politics, but they ended up asking the minister several nonsensical questions about his mother.

"Helloh bud, Enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian, and on relational Israel Holland," the email began, before making several more references to the minister's mum.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the Dutch Foreign Ministry is on the verge of filing a formal complaint against the journalists - and canceling their trip to The Netherlands.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry isn't too happy either. "How could this email possibly have been sent? These journalists have sparked a major, major incident," said an Israeli official. "Sure he can't understand many of the questions, because the English is so bad. But he is being asked about the sleeping arrangements of his mother!"

Meanwhile, the journalists say they're too embarrassed to make the trip.

Apparently, one of the journalists is pretty good with English, and that's what he used to arrange the trip in the first place. But when the Dutch Consulate asked for a list of questions the group might be asking during the seminar, this lone English speaker was indisposed.

So another journalist typed up some questions in his native Hebrew and used an online translation tool to translate them into English. And the tool spat out some babble.

The Jerusalem Post claims that the journalists used the popular translation engine Babel Fish, but this appears to be incorrect. Babel Fish doesn't handle Hebrew. One reader tells us that the hacks used Babylon (www.babylon.com), though this has yet to be verified.

The chief problem was that the engine was unable to distinguish between "ha'im," the Hebrew word for "if," and "ha'ima," the word for mother. But there may be a reason for that. Here's the lowdown from one Hebrew-speaking Reg reader:

While "ha'ima" is indeed *a* word for 'the mother', it is not spelled the same as "ha'im". It has an extra letter on the end. However, "ha'em", which also means "the mother" is spelled identically to "ha'im" when one is writing without vowel points, as is always the case when typing.

So the translation engine can be forgiven. But not the journalists. ®

(18:23 GMT) Our source for this article, The Jerusalem Post, reported that Babel Fish was the translation software used. We have since learned that JP was wrong, so we have changed this article to correct our mistake. Apologies all around, especially to Babel Fish.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
BBC: We're going to slip CODING into kids' TV
Pureed-carrot-in-ice cream C++ surprise
China: You, Microsoft. Office-Windows 'compatibility'. You have 20 days to explain
Told to cough up more details as antitrust probe goes deeper
Windows 7 settles as Windows XP use finally starts to slip … a bit
And at the back of the field, Windows 8.1 is sprinting away from Windows 8
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?