Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kosuke "It's Gonna Happen" Fukudome

At a recent baseball game between Chicago Cubs & Milwaukee Brewers, fans of Cub's Kosuke Fukudome (福留 孝介) decided to make some signs to show their support for the Japanese player.

However the phrase they wanted was mistranslated by machine translator seen here.

The resulting 偶然だぞ is not flattering at all and is actually rather insulting, implying that Fukudome’s successes were merely a result of pure chance and not talent at all.

Related: Cubs pull racist fukudome t-shirt


  1. I wonder why people who bother relying on machine translations don't ever realize that slang doesn't translate? At least if they put in "going to" instead of "gonna" it would've come out with something non-offensive...

    What would an appropriate translation be, you think? Maybe:

    I'm not sure since I don't know where "it's gonna happen" really came from, or what they meant for it to imply. KF

  2. I have no idea. I wish babelfisb would automatically translate back to the input language, so the user can see how bad it really is. For example:

    You entered: Really?
    日本語で  実際にか。
    Translated back to English: Actually?

    Note: These are the actual results of Babelfish.

  3. Babelfish is a joke...especially for Japanese. I don't use that for European languages very often, so I don't know the current situation for that....but its Japanese sucks big time. Once I had remarked somewhere on this site that: "The only place where Babelfish works is in the 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' books" and I still do think so.

    For other online translators, I mostly use Google Translate and I think it's better. For example Chinese-English translations have a decent grammar output for can actually make sense of the phrase. But I can't say so for its Korean-English translation.

    For my own major; Japanese, I usually rely on my own knowledge and instincts for grammar and for looking up words, I use Jim Breen's dictionary site and some Japanese dictionary sites (mostly for online help. There's a new upcoming Japanese dictionary for my native Turkish on but it still has a long way to go for being a developed dictionary.

  4. Some Correction:

    Google Translate may be better for Chinese but it's dealing with Japanese as it deals with Korean. Anyway, I personally don't have to look at that...

  5. kiz wrote:
    What would an appropriate translation be, you think?

    It looks like this little bit of tomfoolery has become "big in Japan" as they say. Someone has even put together a cool little video on YouTube, which is linked to here.

    Together with a cool sound track, the YouTube user has kindly offered at least one good translation into Japanese: やってくれるぞ.

    Ths literally means "[he = Fukudome] is going to do it for us."

    Go ahead and look through the video for a few other interesting ways someone might translate the phrase.


  6. Honestly, although machine translations are generally pretty bad, I think the problem is that the English phrase is kinda insulting, too. "It's gonna happen" implies that it is by luck rather than skill in English, also.

  7. Since it changed to a proprietary translating system, I think that Google Translate has actually made some pretty sizable strides in machine translation quality (granted, I use it mainly with Romance languages, but still, Japanese and Chinese are a lot more readable with it too).

    The notable thing about GTranslate is the way that it does contextual translations (rather that word-by-word ones) based on user submissions. If you get a poor translation from Korean, you have every ability to correct and submit the translation then and there!

  8. What the HELL. Where do people get the idea that machines can translate anything to/from Japanese and have the slightest chance of it being comprehensible?

    Honestly, although machine translations are generally pretty bad, I think the problem is that the English phrase is kinda insulting, too. "It's gonna happen" implies that it is by luck rather than skill in English, also.

    Eh, I don't see how. To me it actually implies the opposite: "It's gonna happen" implies a certainty, and the only way one could be certain is if skill is involved.

    - Kef

  9. By the way, I must strongly disagree that Google Translate's way of doing things is better than Babelfish's. Even when translating between English and Spanish -- surely that should be one of the most well-developed translation settings? -- it constantly makes errors that are so baffling that I cannot understand what the machine's logic is. At least with something like Babelfish, when it makes a hilariously bad translation, I can usually at least figure out what the machine did wrong. But Google Translate will do things like change a pronoun for apparently no reason at all. I remember it put the word "we" in one sentence where there was no word or conjugation that suggested a "we" anywhere. I can't see how they could possibly be on the right track with that.

    - Kef

  10. I've tried translating the phrase "it's gonna happen" and/or variants of it with multiple translation sites, and none of them have given me the result "偶然だぞ" Has Google changed their translation system already?

    In fact, I can't find any way to get Google to give me a result with the ending "だぞ", has anyone managed to do that?

    I like to compare Babelfish and I find that Excite is generally better at translations that require some understanding of the sentence as a whole.

  11. Has Google changed their translation system already?

    Evidently so. It seems to be in a constant state of flux. I can't say they have improved, though.

    It now translates "It's gonna happen" to 信頼を勝ち取る起こる which sounds like some sort of pidgin Japanese on the lines of "win trust happens."

    Pure gibberish! sigh

    At least this horrible free machine translation promises job security for us human translators.


  12. I don't know, something smells fishy here. What kind of change would Google have to make for the results to go from "偶然だぞ!" which is a legitimate utterance (albeit the meaning is off) to "信頼を勝ち取る起こる" which is gibberish?

    The only explanation I've thought of so far is the possibility that the original translation "偶然だぞ!" was actually taken from a bilingual text, so there was no machine translation involved. I admit I'm not that familiar with machine translation algorithms, but it seems highly unlikely that one would produce a result like "偶然だぞ!"

    My inner conspiracy theorist wants to say that the fans were set up by someone (maybe even Google! haha), what do you think?

  13. I guess Google's translation has changed again, this time for the better.

    As of today (9/4/2008) Google translates "It's gonna happen" as 起きるわよ!

    This is a much better better translation, although this particular phrasing would probably be used only by women.

    - Alan

  14. Alan,

    Looks like you only get 起きるわよ! if you add an exclamation point, otherwise it's still good 'ol 信頼を勝ち取る起こる... But I guess the fact that it's constantly in flux kind of rules out my conspiracy theory, it might actually possible that at one point, it gave the result of 偶然だぞ!

  15. Suihanki,

    Looks like you only get 起きるわよ! if you add an exclamation point

    You're right. I didn't notice that.

    it might actually possible that at one point, it gave the result of 偶然だぞ!

    Oh, it definitely did at one point. I saw it myself, and you can see a screen shot of this result captured for time immemorial. Click on the "mistranslated by machine translator seen here" link above.

    The conspiracy theory cannot be ruled out, though, because evidently anyone can suggest a translation to Google. Perhaps as a prank someone with mischievous intent suggested the bogus 偶然だぞ translation to Google and then duped the Cubs fans into using the output from Google translate to make their signs.

    That would be a pretty classy hack if someone had managed to do it intentionally.


  16. That would be an awesome and most nerdy way to get someone. I could see many possible set-ups, such as targeting seasonal phrases like "Merry Christmas" or "happy new year" for general, anonymous amusement, but the best by far would be if you knew ahead of time that a coworker or friend (or an entire group of baseball fans) was going to look up a certain phrase, and could suggest a translation that was close enough to the real meaning as to be believable, yet different enough to create painful and awkward hilarity at the expense of those involved.

    Ahhh who knows... seems impossible... but maybe someday someone will actually pull it off!


  17. the sign with that saying on it wasn't related to fukudome's name that is on the other two signs, "it's gonna happen" is a slogan for cubs fan that can be seen on many signs in english around the stadium

    a world series victory would be whats "gonna happen", the championship for MLB

    i imagine they were just trying to be unique and have the slogan in japanese for him to read as well

    i don't know about the context of the slogan in general but if it literally transates back to "it's gonna happen" then it is correct, and it is not referring to fukudome

    see link below for english version:

  18. awww i think its sweet of them to try though!