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US Teenager Left ‘Devastated’ After Scots Wikipedia Translation

David Paul

,

Wikipedia

The man spent years translating thousands of pages of the Scottish Wikipedia into Scots.

A teenager from America says he is ‘devastated’ after filling thousands of Scots Wikipedia articles with ‘gibberish’ and being harassed online.

The 19-year-old attempted to translate online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, into the Scots language, despite not being able to speak or write in Scots and with no oversight.

Earlier this week it was discovered that the teenager had written around 27,000 articles into Scots, despite not grasping the full complexity of the language. Some users complained that the author made repeated mistakes and accused him of cultural vandalism.

Reddit user Ryan Dempsey, who discovered the page, said that the man: “has possibly done more damage to the Scots language than anyone else in history. They engaged in cultural vandalism on a hitherto unprecedented scale.”

The man began the edits of the page when he was 12, and between 2013 and 2020 has made around 100,000 edits, including creating tens of thousands of new pages and significantly expanding existing ones.

Dempsey said the entries appeared to have been written out in English with individual words being looked up using online Scots translators. Words with no Scots replacements were then left in their English form.

This left sentences making little to no sense, with articles such as one on ‘Scotched English‘ stating: “Scotched English is (for ordinar) staundart Ingles that’s been buskit for tae mak it leuk lik Scots. This can come aboot in twa-three weys.”

Some users defended the man, arguing that the problem stemmed from a lack of other speakers contributing to the site. They noted that the user had mostly simply done straight translations of English words for Scots equivalents, despite grammatical errors.

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The unnamed teenager apologised on Wikipedia, writing of his “devastation” after the discovery.

Under the pseudonym AmaryllisGardener, he said: “Honestly, I do not mind if you revert all my edits, delete my articles, and ban me from the wiki for good. I’ve already found out that my “contributions” have angered countless people, and to me, that’s all the devastation I can be given, after years of my thinking I was doing good (and yes, obsessively editing, I have OCD).

“I was only a 12-year-old kid when I started, and sometimes when you start something young, you can’t see that the habit you’ve developed is unhealthy and unhelpful as you get older.”

He added: “I do not care about defending myself, I only want to stop being harassed on my social media (and to stop my other friends who have nothing to do with the wiki from being harassed as well).”

There is currently a debate among Wikipedia editors on whether the Scots page should be deleted and started afresh rather than attempting to remedy the mistakes. It is believed that reverting the text could take years.

There are also concerns that the Scots Wikipedia articles could have caused problems in machine learning software which uses Wikipedia as a source of information on languages to teach systems on how to detect them.

David Paul

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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