I will attempt to answer the six questions that the English language permits: what, where, how, when, why, and who?

What?

Specifically, what is this site? What is it doing?

In 2018 this blog post wrote about a strange phenomenon on Google Translate: it recognises strings of vowels and spaces as Hawaiian, and translates them to English (or any other language) accordingly. It appears that this is because when translating Hawaiian into another language, Google strips away the consonants first.

The results are strange:

eoiaau i ueiaieeouiuoeuoeuiooieuoiiuaeioeouauoue u uoo euouiooauoeoueouiei oo oeoeoo aa eaueieoueooeoiao aeiieeuiuiaaaeiooauoiee a i oo oe

becomes:

you have to keep in touch with your body and keep your body healthy and healthy

On his original blog post, Mark Liberman wrote a simple script to generate random strings of vowels. This site is based on Mark’s idea: it uses a Python script to generate random strings of vowels, send them to Google Translate, and display what Google Translate thinks it says in Hawaiian. The resulting text is an intriguing jumble of ideas.


random strings of vowelsGoogle TranslateHawaiian Wisdom



random strings of vowels

Google Translate

Hawaiian Wisdom

This site exists to play with a quirk of Google’s translation software, generating pseudo-wisdom from random strings of vowels. The title “Hawaiian Wisdom” is in no way meant to offend the people, language, or culture of Hawaii. You can click on any of the “Hawaiian” or “English” text on this site to see the original translation yourself in Google Translate. The translations will, naturally, change over time, and someday, they might just translate as the jibberish that they are…

One interesting side-note is that Google’s interpretation of ‘Hawaiian’ phrases is ever-changing. Clicking on the text within a snippet of wisdom will take you to a Google Translate page where the ‘translation’ can be found – quite often this is different to the content on this site!

Where?

This project exists on the internet. You can download the code for this project from GitHub, or generate a new piece of ‘wisdom’ directly in Google Translate by clicking New Hawaiian Wisdom at the top of this page.

An earlier version of this code runs as a bot at @hawaiian_wisdom

How?

The coding here is pretty simple: it generates random strings of vowels, sends them to Google Translate, and saves the result. This is then saved to a long text file, which is parsed to a Hexo site. Occasionally I run the translate code again to generate new phrases.

How Google translates is subject to speculation. See the Language Log blog for more ideas.

When?

This site was built in May 2018. The original bot was created in February 2018. Selected ‘wisdom’ and the code/musing were printed in No Robot, No! by Sidekick Books in October 2018.

Why?

I stumbled across Mark Liberman’s blog post earlier this year and was intrigued by the strangely poetic, disjointed voice the mis-translations had. I wanted to use them in auto-generative poetry.

Who?

This site was built by Ollie Palmer, an artist based in the Netherlands, using Hexo with a modified version of the Cactus theme.