The Milk Port Translation Fiasco

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Faking an interview is always a poor journalistic practice, to say the least — but if you’re going to make up quotes, don’t rely on Google Translate. A Turkish newspaper learned that lesson the hard way this week after it fabricated a huge chunk of an interview with American scholar Noam Chomsky.

The interview, published in English in Yeni Safak, contained the following quotes, apparently translated into English using Google Translate.

“This complexity in the Middle East, do you think the Western states flapping because of this chaos? Contrary to what happens when everything that milk port, enters the work order, then begins to bustle in the West. I’ve seen the plans works.”

What? Either you love Chomsky or you hate him, but either way you have to admit he’s more eloquent than that.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Chomsky did answer some questions for the newspaper by email, but apparently the newspaper either wasn’t satisfied with the answers he provided or they decided they needed more material. Google Translate to the rescue! Conveniently enough, the fake quotes made Chomsky appear to be a staunch supporter of the Turkish government and its policies, opening up Yeni Safak to accusations of political bias as well as journalistic incompetence.

Once translated out of Turkish, the resulting word salad made the newspaper’s fabrications blatantly obvious. After Chomsky called them on it, they then compounded their error by admitting to “misquoting” only three sentences out of the entire interview, accusing Chomsky of having “forgotten” answering a second round of questions with their reporter. The paper released the “full text” of this “second interview” and it’s just hilariously bad. Seriously, there wasn’t a single fluent English speaker available to review the text for them? Not one?

I’m not quite sure how the paper expected to get away with this, but it’s an excellent reminder of the perils of Google Translate. The interview has since been pulled.

Here are the 5 funniest quotes from the made-up “interview.” The complete text is available here:

1. “Contrary to what happens when everything that milk port, enters the work order, then begins to bustle in the West.” “Milk port” is a direct translation of a Turkish idiom meaning “calm” or peaceful. It makes no sense in English.

2. “Those who never breaks the brutality of the best of those who have not been so quiet.”

3. “While there have been tampered with, sometimes with the Republic of Turkey won democracy.”

4. “Today it’s support for countries to be able to understand that taste ways of extending democracy in the Middle East states, but this is the fact that for a very long about remembering us.”

5. “But there it also let’s open a parenthesis.”

Take it from here, Wayne: