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Wednesday 19 February 2020

Facebook apologises to Xi for translating his name as ‘shithole’

The social networking site released a statement saying a technical problem caused the odd translation, but those who verified the claim are not convinced that is true

Facebook has apologised to the Chinese President Xi Jinping for mistranslating the name of Burmese into English. President Xi Jinping is on a two-day visit to Myanmar. This mistake of translation surfaced on the second day of the tour.

On Saturday, President Xi met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The two countries signed several agreements to strengthen bilateral relations. In the Burmese language Facebook post describing this meeting, the page of Myanmar State Counsellor Office translated President Xi’s name into English as ‘Shithole’.

image for story "Facebook apologises to Xi for translating his name as 'shithole'"
The mistranslation

Suu Kyi’s official account shared this Facebook post.

On Saturday, the social networking site company released a statement saying that it was caused by a technical problem. Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in his statement, “We fixed a technical issue that caused incorrect translations from Burmese to English on Facebook. This should not have happened and we are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Facebook has admitted that the name Xi was not inserted into the database; so it is a mistake. If there is no word in the database of the social networking site, it takes another word similar to it during translation.

In Burmese, the word that starts with Xi or shi also includes ‘Shithole’. Andy Stone said, “We are aware of an issue regarding Burmese to English translations on Facebook, and we’re doing everything we can to fix this as quickly as possible.” English translation of Burmese was not working on the Facebook pages of Suu Kyi and Myanmar government on Sunday morning.

According to news agency Reuters, Google’s translation function did not show the same error. The New York Times reported: “Mr Kenneth Wong, a Burmese language instructor at the University of California, Berkeley, said when he first saw the translation he thought someone intentionally made it to embarrass Xi.”

China happened to be one of the few countries that had defended Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi at the time when the international community went after her government for the ‘plight’ of Rohingya Muslims.

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