Translation software blamed for sofa tag

Staff Staff, May 7, 2007

A translation error in a software program apparently is to blame for a tag on a leather sofa sold in Canada with a "nigger-brown" label describing its color.

The leather sofa sold by retailer Vanaik Furniture and Mattress in Mississauga, Ontario, was purchased by a 30-year-old consumer, who is black. Her 7-year-old daughter discovered the label after it was delivered, according to The Toronto Star.

Vanaik's blamed Cosmos Furniture, who in turn blamed its supplier in Guangzhou, China. Neither Vanaik or Cosmos has responded to Furniture/Today's request for comment.

According to Associated Press reports, the unidentified manufacturer was using an old version of translation software from Beijing-based Kingsoft Corp., which got the definition from a Chinese-English dictionary.

The AP story said the consumer is seeking compensation and has filed a report with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

In April, California State Sen. Leland Yee called on the Chinese company to discontinue selling furniture labeled with a racist slur and to issue an apology.

"It is completely unacceptable and there is really no excuse for an international company to market their product with such hurtful and derogatory language," said Yee, who was born near Guangzhou, in a statement. "While this may be the result of a poor translation, there needs to be some quality control when it comes to such insensitive words."

Yee called on the Consul General in San Francisco to further investigate the matter and is asking the manufacturer to discontinue selling products with this description and issue an apology.

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