Nordica,  Writing

Google’s the most successful son of a bitch in Finland

I have bit of deliberate ambiguity for you today, specifically how to interpret the word Google’s in the title of this post.  All that “glitteringly glitters” is not what it purports to be.

Once back in 2011, I read a story in a Finnish newspaper about a choirboy accidentally throwing up into a Steinway Model C valued at around 100,000 — or as it’s written in Finland, 100.000.  This post is about how Google Translate hilariously mistranslated the story to English in 2011 and again differently in 2018.

Just so that you know I’m telling you the truth, here’s a link to the story.

[Sorry the link was broken for a while after the newspaper reorganized its website. I’ve noticed and updated it now.]

Unfortunately, the link (still alive these 7-1/2 years later) is not going to do you much good, because unlike German or French, Finnish has very close to zero easy cognates for English speakers.  But don’t worry about that, here’s a loose translation I dashed off at the time.  It’s neither nuanced nor elegant — I don’t think in English when I read Finnish — but it’s factual.

Headline: Choirboy vomited into 100,000-Euro piano in Helsinki

A choirboy vomited into an extremely valuable grand piano on Sunday at Helsinki Cathedral.

The boy was rehearsing with the Cantores Minores boychoir for a Mother’s Day concert in the church when he began to feel ill mid-song. He didn’t want to vomit on his fellow choristers, so he turned — and vomited into the grand piano, which was open at the moment.

Head facilities coordinator Petri Oittinen estimates that the value of the Steinway C in question is approximately 100,000 Euros.

“The instrument is out of service. It’s still being worked out who will pay for the damages and what the insurance [will cover],” Oittinen says.

He’s also Chairman of the choir’s board of directors.

Another piano from a different area of the church has been moved to the sanctuary for use in summer weddings and church concerts.

The instrument is insured, but the liable party is still being determined.

“This is extremely unfortunate for the boy and his family. It’s not that unusual for singers to express anxiety through their stomach. Kids don’t always remember to eat and drink properly before performances,” Oittinen said.

The instrument will be restored.

The accident damaged the piano’s lowest strings. They will have to be replaced and the rest of the strings will have to be cleaned.

“Experts have assured us the damage can be repaired,” says Cantor Martti Laitinen.

“An exact cost has yet to be determined, but the requisite expertise is available locally,” says the Cathedral’s musical director Pekka Suikkanen.

“I imagine we’ll get it so [thoroughly] cleaned up that there won’t even be any lingering odor.”

According to Suikkanen, vomiting into a grand piano is a rare event.

“Even in this case, it wasn’t deliberate but a measure of last resort.”

Cantores Minores is Finland’s oldest and most successful boychoir. The choir has hundreds of members ranging from young boys to young men. It has held Mother’s Day concerts since 1953.

[The Cathedral acquired the Steinway] in 2009 after long deliberation. Its tone was described at the time as clear, warm, and majestic, with basses resonant like church bells and brilliant trebles.

Katrina Pajari

But wait — there’s no story so good that Google Translate can’t improve it.

Here’s what GT made of the story back in 2011:

Headline: Choir boy threw up 100 000 euros in Helsinki on the grand piano

Ten-year-choir boy threw up a very prestigious piano on Sunday in Helsinki Cathedral.
Son of the trainees Minores Cantores choir concert for Mother’s Day, when he began to feel queasy among song.

Boy did not want to vomit kuorotovereidensa on, so he turned – and threw up a grand piano, whose lid was open.

The Church of ylivahtimestari Petri Oittinen evaluate the Steinway C grand piano at about one hundred thousand euros worth.

– The player is turned off. It is being studied, who will pay for the repair and how insurance policies are, Oittinen says.

He is also President of the Cantores Minores.

Summer weddings and church concerts in the cathedral crypt for a grand piano moved to the church hall.

The player is insured, but now find out who has the liability.

– The case is a very unfortunate boy and his family. As such, it is not uncommon that the chorus kind of response the excitement on her stomach. In the presentations, it is not always remember to eat and drink as it should, Oittinen says.

“The player will condition ”

Injure the value of the lowest in grand language. They have to be replaced and the rest of the languages to clean up.

– Experts have assured us that the player is in good form, says the cantor, Martti Laitinen .

Vomit in the value of the grand piano repairs, exact price is not yet known. The required skills can be found in Finland, however, says the Cathedral Parish Church of the leading musicians Pekka Suikkanen .

– Let’s all get done so that no smell remains.

Suikkanen the grand vomiting is rare.

– No, it did not know was not planned, but a stopgap, he describes the situation.

Cantores Minores is Finland’s oldest and most successful boys’ choir. The chorus consists of hundreds of members of the young boys to young men. The choir has been Mother’s Day concerts since 1953.

Steinway grand piano came to the Cathedral in 2009, after careful consideration. Its sound was described at the time a clear, warm and jylhäksi. Boomy bass was described as the church bells, treble brilliantly rattled.

All I can say is I that need a kid like that!  And I don’t particularly care whether he chucks up the piano itself (lid open) or merely $124,000 I can use to buy one — though I believe I’d prefer a piano in which the treble didn’t rattle.
It was good thinking that they turned the piano off, at least — there’s no point wasting good electricity.   The piano may well have considered carefully before it came to Finland, but I’ll bet that it has since reconsidered.
So a couple of days ago, I forwarded this story to a friend.  She was curious to see if Google Translate has learned anything in the almost seven years since the story broke.  And indeed it has!  Here’s what it did with the story when my friend re-translated it in 2018:

The ten-year-old chubby rapist rallied to a very valuable flygish on Sunday in the Helsinki Cathedral.
He was practicing with the Cantores Minores Choir for a mothers day concert, when he began to feel badly in the middle of the song. The boy did not want to vomit over his chorus comrades, so he turned — and smeared a grand piano with the lid open.

Church Superintendent Petri Oittinen estimates that the Steinway C flygirl is worth about one hundred thousand euros worth.

—The player is off. It’s under investigation, who pays for the repair and how the insurance is, says Oittinen. He is also chairman of Cantores Minores. For summer weddings and church concerts, the cathedral’s cryptan grand piano is being moved to the churchyard.

The player is insured, but it is not clear who is responsible.

—The case is very annoying for a boy and his family. As such, it is not uncommon for the chorus to react to tension in the stomach. When it comes to presentations, you always can not eat and drink as it should, says Oittinen.

The player is received in shape.

—The accident caused damage to the lower tongue of the value dictionary. They need to be replaced and the rest of the tongues clean. Experts have already assured us that the player will be ready, says cantor Martti Laitinen.

The exact price of repair work on a sculpted fake gerber is not yet known. However, Finland has the required skills, says Pekka Suikkanen, Principal Church Musician of the Cathedral.

– Well, everyone can get it done so that there is no odor.

According to Suikkanen, the vomiting of the fly is rare.

– It was not planned but an emergency solution, he describes the situation.

Cantores Minores is Finland’s oldest and most successful son of a bitch. The choir includes hundreds of members from little boys to young men. The choir has had mothers’ concerts since 1953.

The Steinway grand piano came to the Cathedral in 2009 after long consideration. Its sound was then described bright, warm, and crisp. The bass was described as rubbery as the church bells, the twinkles glitteringly glittering.

Now, along with various other improvements, Google Translate has promoted the hapless ten-year-old choirboy to “a chubby rapist” and Minores Cantores to “the most successful son of a bitch in Finland.”  (You can’t buy cred like that!)  And I’m not sure what a “sculpted fake gerber” is nor where I would find one.  But fortunately “the vomiting of the fly is rare.”  At least the treble of the instrument no longer rattles.  Rather it “glitteringly glitters.”

Without getting into too much technical detail, I more or less understand how Google Translate can separately and correctly translate menestyksekkäin to most successful and poikakuoro to boys’ choir yet conclude that menestyksekkäin poikakuoro means most successful son of a bitch.  (Of course by the time you go look at it, Google or a helpful user may have corrected that.)  Finnish is a particularly phrasal language.  Even humans cannot learn to make sense of it in any word-by-word fashion but must learn to think in its established phraseology.  And one school of automated translation is phrasal anyway — the only present-day school with any hope of learning to translate Finnish, an idiosyncratic non-Indo-European language, into good English.
Google Translate looks at Google’s extensive databases for the longest group of words that may, based on millions of emails, newspapers, books, and websites scanned and analyzed, have meaning when taken together.  (It’s not that unlike the way the human brain processes language.)  And it decided in this case, based of frequencies of occurrence together, that menestyksekkäin poikakuoro looked rather similar to menestyksekkäin huoranpoika, (once you take poikakuoro apart into the two words poika=boy and kuoro=choir, then swap them) where huora is a woman of very ill repute.  If you look closely enough at the word, you’ll see that Finnish has cognates with English after all.
There’s a lesson here about using Google Translate when publishing your novel or résumé or research paper; or to make decisions about personal relationships based on correspondence you might discover in a language unknown to you.