Tags: chinese | app | wechat | n-word | translation | error

Chinese App WeChat Apologizes After N-Word Translation Error

Image: Chinese App WeChat Apologizes After N-Word Translation Error
A view of a WeChat page. (AP)

By    |   Saturday, 14 October 2017 06:51 PM

The Chinese messaging app WeChat has apologized for translating “black foreigner” into the N-word, according to news reports.

"We're very sorry for the inappropriate translation," a WeChat spokesperson told Sixth Tone, a Chinese news website. "After receiving users' feedback, we immediately fixed the problem."

Ann James, an African-American actor and director who appears in “Wolf Warrior II,” noticed the translation, according to Wednesday’s report.

"Wolf Warrior II," released worldwide in July, is China’s highest-grossing film ever, according to The Independent.

James, who has lived in Shanghai for five years, discovered the slur when she texted Chinese colleagues telling them she was running late.

She then translated their Chinese response into English, using WeChat’s translation feature.

"The [N-word] is late," is what James read, she told Sixth Tone. "I was just horrified."

James said she checked with an Asian colleague, who confirmed that the original Chinese message used a neutral term: "hei laowai," or "black foreigner."

However, That's Shanghai, a local news outlet, tested WeChat for its report.

The site found that in some sentences, the phrase "black foreigner" was translated neutrally, but if it is used negatively, the app translated it into the N-word.

The app's translation software uses artificial intelligence, according to both reports, but when That's Shanghai tested translations on Bing Translator and Microsoft's Neural Machine Translation, the results were different than WeChat's.

"The same phrases that turned out more negative translations on WeChat instead automatically generated neutral versions on Microsoft," That's Shanghai reports.

James questioned why WeChat included material with the N-word in its machine learning process in the first place.

"Why is that word even in the translator?" she told Sixth Tone.

Nearly a billion people used WeChat for chatting, shopping and gaming, the Independent reports.

It is censored by the Chinese government.

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"We're very sorry for the inappropriate translation," a WeChat spokesperson told Sixth Tone, a Chinese news website.
chinese, app, wechat, n-word, translation, error
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2017-51-14
Saturday, 14 October 2017 06:51 PM
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