back to article MI5 test for Mandarin-speaking snoops 'just too easy'

British intelligence nerve-centre MI5 is recruiting fluent Chinese speakers to eavesdrop on phone calls - but it got more than it bargained for when its Mandarin comprehension test was ridiculed by Redditors. Blighty's Security Service set up an online language exam, which encourages peeps with Mandarin, Russian, Sylheti, …

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  1. Buzzword

    Voice recognition + Google translate?

    Maybe technology can help address the shortfall?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Voice recognition + Google translate?

      Try that with Russian (one of the other languages they ask for which test is an even bigger joke).

      There just a misplaced pause or a comma totally changes the meaning. Add that 80 years of training the population in double speak and double/tripple meaning of what something means and laugh.

    2. Inachu
      Devil

      Re: Voice recognition + Google translate?

      Ni pigu bu hao!

      1. Cheshire Cat
        Go

        Re: Voice recognition + Google translate?

        @Inachu -- "Your arse is bad"? At least, that's what I make it out to be. Not that my Mandarin is much better than that of my 6yr old daughter, from whom I have obtained most of my more interesting vocabulary... Pi hua! Ni zai shi da bun dan!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You forgot to post the whole comment

    The one from Mr/Ms Snackburros:

    « That written passage has some grammar/usage/sentence structure awkwardness to it. I was seriously anticipating that the assessment would be to rewrite the passage. »

    Now that would be public service at its finest, if you could cut into an eavesdropped enemy conversation with a "Sorry to interrupt you, Sir, but I do believe you have utilised non-standard grammar in that last sentence. Perhaps you would care to rephrase it as..."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You forgot to post the whole comment

      Hmm... and sure enough, then Snackburros goes on to correct their grammar: http://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/19l7uq/take_this_test_to_see_if_your_chinese_skill_is/c8pdciv

    2. Lee D

      Re: You forgot to post the whole comment

      If I wanted to catch a spy, I'd do something that - for any normal person - would put them out of their comfort zone.

      If I start talking nonsensical grammar that sounds okay to the casual tourist and the guy opposite me - supposedly fluent / native - doesn't flinch, grimace or correct me in their next sentence, that would raise my suspicions.

      "Yes, we're planning the sauté the bomb next semester, Mrs Bond, just before the giraffe land with their payment."

      "I'll see you when the giraffe land, then" (without a hint of confusion).

      *BANG*.

      "Bloody spies should learn some Chinese, he stood out a mile"

      And that's not even accounting for when you have to detect subtle grammatical changes that completely change the meaning of the words.

      1. Psyx
        Pint

        Re: You forgot to post the whole comment

        That's far too complex, and frankly uncivilised.

        Proper spies simply order a fish course and if their companion orders red wine with it, they know they can be safely gunned down as an imposter.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the next James Bond" - licensed to ...

    ... cover the 25% shortfall in comms. Snappy.

    Still at least the theme song just needs one syllable changed from the last one.

    W

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      Re: "the next James Bond" - licensed to ...

      I thought you were going to change it to "licensed to bill"

  4. Frankee Llonnygog

    Problem solved

    Simply outsource the work to China.

    The resource issue goes away and MI5 wins outsourcing brownie points with their UK Government paymasters.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Problem solved

      Well if you reject any candidates with Chinese ancestry as security risks and then anybody that has studied Chinese as "a but suspicious" it's very difficult to recruit anyone.

  5. sandman

    Cunning plan

    My agents speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin....

  6. Jack Project

    I recently ordered some C4 from my local Chinese sales advocate which could have been awkward had I been intercepted. That said the ensuing Beef Chop Suey was delicious.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Joke

      on the other hand.

      I appreciate that Chinese restaurant owners (or at least the people who print the menus) love BINGO. Playing that while standing in line at the Chinese take-out in the mall is fucking hilarious.

    2. John 90

      I hope they don't forget to put the rice in.

      1. David_H
        Mushroom

        "Rice in" very funny!

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Except "Rice in" is a Sushi joke.

        2. Inachu
          Boffin

          huh?

          Doi bu chi! Wo puchie dao.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    "Data short fall" means

    <- He does not know everything about everybody in the UK forever.

    Guess what.

    He never will.

    No damm reason to ask, no damm reason to know.

    1. Inachu
      Meh

      Re: "Data short fall" means .... Ni?

      Ni puching chu!

  8. Jon Green
    Facepalm

    Has no-one considered...

    ...that the stilted grammar and mitsakes were deliberate? Those candidates fluent enough to point them out in the interview stage, having passed the first test, would be head and shoulders above the others.

    The security services (small 's's) have a long and well-established history of using these kinds of tricks to filter applicants.

    1. Inachu
      Angel

      Re: Has no-one considered...

      M15 must be using the rosetta stone software package.

      I am no where fluent in chinese or korean but rosetta said I was 80% fluent in both.

      Bunch of crap! Heck man let me steer the M15 chinese/korean division and I'll do a better job!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What did you expect from the least secret, least effective security service in the world.

    Look brazillian plumber, or just random geezah shoooot him and lie about it afterwards!!!

    1. Psyx
      FAIL

      "What did you expect from the least secret, least effective security service in the world."

      Been bombed recently have we? Nope. In fact yesterday the police just happened to somehow catch a bunch of people conveniently red-handed before a terrorist attack. And are the names of the top twenty executives of Five in public domain? Nope. So nothing like half the security services in terms of secrecy there, either.

      "Look brazillian plumber, or just random geezah shoooot him and lie about it afterwards!!!"

      That was a police operation, not Five. Nothing to do with the security services.

      Clearly, you have no clue what you are talking about.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Psyx So because we haven't "been bombed" that means they are effective? Thats specious reasoning.

        I haven't been struck by lightning either, so god must be protecting me... and i'm sure that we will get bombed again, next time someone needs some new laws enacting.,

        You think because someone was wearing a police uniform that they were not SIS/MI5 ?

        Do you think they walk around wearing t-shirts saying "Security Service". Be realistic.

        And during the entire London bombings and aftermath, where was the security service then? Why was there no warning? Or perhaps there was, but we just got told to keep calm and carry on right ?

        You think MI5 did not pass dodgy information to people like the police ? If you think the police are the only people involved in anti-terrorism then you have no idea how it works. Clearly, you are the one who has no clue sir, you believe what the media tells you... which makes you not the sharpest tool in the box.

        1. Psyx
          FAIL

          "So because we haven't "been bombed" that means they are effective?"

          That, combined with the fact that there are several cases in court at present prosecuting people for planned attacks. In case you weren't paying attention, an attack was foiled in NI *yesterday*. To claim that our Security Services don't prevent terrorism is provably false.

          "You think because someone was wearing a police uniform that they were not SIS/MI5 ?"

          They weren't uniformed, which shows just how well you've followed the story. It was a unit of the Met. Feel free to look into it. Although, surely seeing as how MI5 are such failures at being secret according to you, you'll easily be able to prove that they weren't Met or something, right?

          "And during the entire London bombings and aftermath, where was the security service then?"

          Oh, right: So they aren't allowed to miss *anything*. Unless they have a 100% success rate, they're useless. Can I hold you to the same standards, professionally. Never miss anything?

          "If you think the police are the only people involved in anti-terrorism then you have no idea how it works. Clearly, you are the one who has no clue sir, you believe what the media tells you... which makes you not the sharpest tool in the box."

          I don't even know what you're waffling on about any more. Of course Police aren't the only people who look into terrorism, because such work has been carried out by Five and a slew of others for over 20 years. However, it was *police* who pulled the trigger on an innocent person.

          Stop just pulling statements out of a hat without any basis in reality.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Gonna stick to the Ireland story all the time are we in defence of the cambridge squad?

            bombs going off in Ireland or being prevented from going off happen on an almost daily basis so is it amazing they found one ?! no, not in the slightest, it was probably just luck of the draw. Gotta catch one sometime.

            Shall we talk about the many, many times they didn't stop acts of terrorism. They were practically useless against the IRA. And I think getting muslims in court and to say they plotted terror isn't exactly heroic either. I'd wager a great many of them might be extremists who like to talk a bit of crap too but then get stuck with the terrorist label. And you think they did anything but rely on intelligence from Menwith hill ? You think they did any actual work ?

            "They weren't uniformed" - Actually. They were. Review the tapes. Its public record. Guy comes out holding his H&K MP5 after murdering the guy.. wearing a big shirt saying ... POLICE.

            Why don't you have a look what your beloved security service did in Iran to mossadeq eh since you're so proud of them. I'm done arguing with you, since you're too high up on your horse to admit when you're wrong and keep spouting the same crap about one story, which was most likely PSNI and not the security services.

            1. Psyx
              FAIL

              "it was probably just luck of the draw."

              Really. Just by luck they happened to nick a van on the way to blow stuff up. If you honestly believe that then you have no right to lecture anyone about being on a high horse.

              "I'm done arguing with you"

              Wah. Have a lolly.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Written English of the clear, concise kind?

    Looks like MI5 could do with some lessons in that, let alone Mandarin.

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