News: Facebook Mistranslates Métis as “Half-Breed”

January 31, 2018

In a recent Facebook post, Facebook's translation tool mistranslated the word Métis as "half-breed." Facebook fixed the mistake after the Manitoba Métis Federation complained that the translation was derogatory and unacceptable.


The post "Vous êtes Métis ou bien vous pensez l'être, voici comment obtenir votre carte de Métis" was translated as, "You're a half-breed or you think you are, here's how to get your half-breed card."


gpi-metis flag-1

The word Métis is not normally translated when used by English speakers in Canada and the U.S.


Facebook's translation function uses external tools, which are partially influenced by users. Allan Benoit, chief of staff for the Manitoba Métis Federation, believes Facebook should reevaluate a translation model that relies on users to help translate between languages to avoid issues such as this.


Seeing Métis translated as "half-breed" was a shock to many people. The Métis are a distinct group of people who developed a unique culture that grew out of Canada's fur trade heritage. They are descendants of the first French explorers and fur traders in Canada and First Nations people. The term Métis means "mixed blood" and the Métis culture incorporates both Native and European traditions.


They first settled in the Red River region in what is now Manitoba and later in Saskatchewan and Alberta. By 1800, they were established as a distinct cultural group. They worked for the Hudson's Bay Company and North West Company as voyageurs, buffalo hunters, traders and interpreters.


The Métis have a rich culture and heritage, but have also faced many hardships. One of those includes being called half-breed. It was used as a racial slur to insult their mixed heritage. Many Métis struggled to find their place as they were a people of two worlds and face discrimination because of it.


I am of Métis heritage and have heard my grandfather tell stories of being called half-breed as a young child. To hear that this term is still being used today is unsettling. It comes from an era of intolerance.


Whether social media platforms like Facebook use crowd-sourced or automatic translations or not, they must do their due diligence to make sure highly-offensive translations such as this don't slip through the cracks.

To read more, please see: Facebook fixes 'half-breed' translation of Métis after MMF complaint.

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Natalie was born and raised in the state of Montana, USA where she graduated from The University of Montana with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. Her international experience includes two summer programs, one at The European Business School in Germany and the other at The University of Brescia in Italy. She studied a variety of global business subjects including international business, trade, culture and language. Key projects for her undergrad studies included meeting with executives from large corporations such as Lufthansa, Opel, and The European Central Bank as well as working with the design team on the marketing plan for the 2015 World Fair in Milan, Italy. She has a range of global event management experience including organization of the Annual Mansfield Conference on the Middle East and the China Town Hall meeting series. Her hobbies include yoga, cooking, reading, being outdoors and traveling.