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Samsung Galaxy S4 Gets Lost In Translation

Apple’s Siri can let the zingers fly, but it hasn’t cornered the market on mobile device laughs—at least not where unintentional humor is concerned. Cue the Samsung Galaxy S4’s new S Translator app.

S Translator does cloud-based voice and text translations; Samsung even markets it as a way to cross the language barrier in real time. (Good luck with that in practice.) To speed things up for the harried traveler, the app also includes a fairly extensive library of stock phrases it can translate immediately into any one of nine languages. 

(See also: Samsung’s Galaxy S4: The Phone So Complex It Has An ‘Easy’ Mode)

Most of these are boring but useful mainstays, such as “Here is my passport,” or “Can I have a glass of water?” Dig a little deeper, though, and things start to get sort of strange.

Consider the following, which appear under the “Socializing/Appearances” category:

  • She is chubby, but cute.
  • I gained some weight after I quit smoking.
  • I have a big face.

Strange that Samsung would think there’d be such high demand for these phrases that they’d deserve a spot on the preset list. They certainly didn’t come from Nuance—its technology powers the speech recognition features, not the translation content or the preset phrases.I also spotted an entry for “How much do you weigh?” Trust me—that’s one translation that no one should be using very frequently. [Updated to refer to Nuance’s speech recognition features. More on this in “Update” at the bottom of the post.] 

Let’s chalk some of this up to inexpertly finessed cultural differences between the South Korean company and its Western user base, which might explain some of the odd emphasis placed on face shape and skin tone. It’s still oddly tone-deaf for an international company that’s enjoyed the global success Samsung has to date.

(See also: To Samsung, The S4 Is A ‘Precious Stone Glittering In The Dark’)

Here’s what may be one of the oddest preset phrases of all. It has the whole ReadWrite editorial crew scratching our collective head: “I lose myself when I see meat.”

For the record, the problem here seems to be the translation into English from, presumably, the original Korean. Google translates the Spanish phrase here as “I love meat,” which seems a bit more natural than what S Translator offers us.

There are plenty of other phrases that would seem much more at home on a S4 in the Asian market than on the American version:

  • Can you pass the soy sauce.
  • That is Korean sake or makgeolli.
  • My father is strict but he is a nice guy.
  • I was born in the year of the rat.
  • New chopsticks please.

It’s always fun to find some hidden bits of buried tech fancy, but these don’t seem like cool Easter eggs as much as random—and kind of awkward—acts of accidental comedy. I put in a request to Samsung to explain how the preset phrases for the app were chosen, but had no response at the time of publication. I’ll update if and when I hear back. 

Have you stumbled across any other fascinating preset phrases in S Translator? If so, share them with us in the comments. 

Feature image courtesy of Samsung, screen capped from the Galaxy S4 presentation

Updated on July 19:The article now includes references that Nuance provides the speech recognition features for the native translation app. However, ReadWrite confirms that the company does not cover the content for the preset phrases. According to a company representative, “Nuance supplies the speech recognition only for S Translator, not any translation services.”

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