Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Good Respects

Trivial I know but I received a spam email with the usual crazy Japanese translations on it, "Yah-hah, evil spider woman! I have captured you by the short rabbits and can now deliver you violently to your gynecologist for a thorough examination" - God knows what they were 'trying' to say but I think it might have been an urgent plea to attend a PAP smear consultation or something about pregnancy testing, didn't they used to use rabbit hormones? Anyway because rabbits are large on my mind today having bunged up at least 5 holes in the border around the house and pulled out two perfectly good Grevilleas which had been killed by said burrowing bandits . . .read on . . .or the bunny gets it!

As I've dabbled in weird translations on a number of occasions and also love the idea of the new Electronic Portable Translator this reminded me of the time I used an online translator to sort out one of Clare's travel dilemmas.

When ClareBear travelled to Italy and Greece in July 2007, I had to write to confirm some accommodation for her in Santorini as they'd lost their pre-purchased accommodation vouchers. I had the brainwave of using an online translator and sending the email in perfect Greek. I used this and typed my message in English (because I'm so pathetic I only speak one language unless it involves reading a menu then I'm pretty good at Thai, Vietnamese and French - love that Pad Thai, Goong and Buerre Blanc), translated it into Greek then duly sent the email. Being the anal being I am, I translated the Greek back into English using the same tool to make sure that it read OK. What a tool . . . me that is, I should have done it before I sent the thing - my original message read:

This email is to confirm that accommodation vouchers for Cimenti, Bainbridge and Mitchell have been accidentally left at a hotel in Rome so I attach copies of the vouchers to confirm their arrival on Saturday. Kind regards

When translated back from Greek to English:

This electronic post is to confirm that you will prove accommodation for Cimenti, Bainbridge and Mitchell have been left accidentally in a hotel in Rome thus connect the copies of proofs in order to I confirm the arrival of girl Saturday. Good respects

There's a sentence to make Borat proud! The truly amazing thing is that somehow we English speakers can make some sort of sense of it . . the Greeks of course had no bloody idea!

Then today, a friend sent me this in an email: http://tashian.com/multibabel/

It explores what happens when an English phrase is translated (by computer) back and forth between 5 different languages. Since September 2007, translators such as Babel Fish are almost good enough to translate grammatically correct sentences into a range of languages. But no software is equipped for 10 consecutive translations of the same piece of text. The resulting half-English, half-foreign, and totally non sequitur response can be hilarious. Or maybe I'm so exhausted I'm finding watching the Test Pattern humerous. Remember the old game of "Chinese Whispers"? Something is lost, and sometimes something is gained. Have some fun with it!

Original English Text:
Today I have worked very hard in the garden by mulching some tree bark and many twigs blown by yesterday's wind, filling in a rabbit hole and tidying two garden beds. Now my left knee hurts like a rude word.

(And it really does hurt like fuck, someone get me an arthroscope!)

Translated to French:
Aujourd'hui j'ai fonctionné très dur dans le jardin à côté de pailler une certaine écorce d'arbre et beaucoup de brindilles soufflées par le vent d'hier, complétant un trou de lapin et rangeant deux lits de jardin. Maintenant mon genou gauche blesse comme un mot grossier.

Translated back to English:
Today I functioned very hard in the garden beside mulching a certain bark of tree and much of brushwood puffed up by the wind of yesterday, supplementing a rabbit hole and arranging two beds of garden.Maintaining my knee left wounds like a coarse word.

OK that's not too bad. I know what it means but it was bark and twigs not brushwood - left wounds like a coarse word? Boy I'm not going there!

Translated to German:
Heute arbeitete ich sehr stark im Garten neben dem Mit Laub bedecken einer bestimmten Barke des Baums und viel von Reisig stieß oben durch den Wind des Gesterns luft, ergänzte eine Kaninchenbohrung und ordnet zwei Betten Garten. Das Beibehalten meines Knies ließ Wunden wie ein grobes Wort.

Translated back to English:
Today I operated very strongly in the garden beside the with leaves cover a certain Barke of the tree and much of brushwood pushed above by the wind of the Gesterns air, completed a rabbit drilling and arrange two beds garden. Maintaining my knee left wounds like a rough word.

Sweet Jesus! I've never drilled a rabbit in my life! Literally or otherwise -what's the Gesterns air?

Translated to Italian:
Oggi ho funzionato molto fortemente nel giardino al lato del con i fogli copro un determinato Barke dell'albero e di molto di sottobosco spinto sopra dal vento dell'aria di Gesterns, ho completato un coniglio che perfora ed organizzo un giardino delle due basi. Effettuare il mio ginocchio ha lasciato le ferite come una parola

Translated back to English:
Today I have worked much strongly in the garden to the side of with the sheets I cover a determined Barke of the tree and a lot of underbrush pushed over from the wind of the air of Gesterns, I have completed a rabbit that it perforates and I organize a garden of the two bases. To carry out mine ginocchio has left the wounds like one approximate word.

Oh yes, I completed that Rabbit "You compleeeet meee" and I have one sore ginocchio!

Translated to Portuguese:
Hoje eu trabalhei muito fortemente no jardim ao lado com das folhas que eu cubro um Barke determinado da árvore e dos muitos do underbrush empurrados sobre do vento do ar de Gesterns, eu terminei um coelho que perfurasse e eu organizo um jardim das duas bases. Realizar o ginocchio da mina saiu das feridas como uma palavra aproximada.

Translated back to English:
Today I worked very strong in the garden to the side with of the leves that I cover a definitive Barke of the tree and many of underbrush pushed on of the wind of the air of Gesterns, I I finished a rabbit that punched and I organize a garden of the two bases. To carry through the ginocchio of the mine left the wounds as an approach word.

I finished that punching rabbit aight!

Translated to Spanish:
Trabajé hoy muy fuerte en el jardín a la cara con de los leves que cubro un Barke definitivo del árbol y de muchos de underbrush empujado encendido del viento del aire de Gesterns, yo que acabé un conejo que perforó y ordeno un jardín de las dos bases. Llevar con el ginocchio de la mina salió de las heridas como una palabra del acercamiento.

Translated back to English:
I worked today very hard in the garden to the face with of slight that I cover a definitive Barke with the tree and many of underbrush pushed ignition of the wind of the air of Gesterns, I that I finished a rabbit that it perforated and I order a garden of the two bases. To take with ginocchio of the mine left the wounds like a word of the approach.

Point made . . gibberish . . I just hope I 'finished' that bloody rabbit!

Next time I want something translated, I'll go to Gaudium de Lingua . . she does it properly!


Miles McClagan said...

Meh, my only translation skill is translating things into Swedish Chef from the Muppets...

Every third word is bork...

Baino said...

Hurdy hurdy bork bork oom doop-doop doop-doop!
You can translate " och eye tis a broad bricht moonlicht nicht ti knecht?" And you're one of the few that actually knows what the hell a sporran is for!

laughingwolf said...

lol... too funny!

and the sporran holds the family jewels, o'course :P lol

Melissa said...

aahhh ha ha!! Now if only they had the Swedish Chef from the Muppets in here somewhere. Oh, this was funny, Baino, thank you. We saw some funny translations in China, and I can only imagine what some of us actually said when attempting Mandarin ourselves. :)

Christopher said...

Where I work I occasionally have to translate letters from other languages into English. When we can we prefer to deal with companies that have English-speaking employees, but sometimes that just isn't possible.
What annoys me more than anything else about these translation programs is the way they take a word like "ginocchio" and leave it in the original language because they can't figure out what it means. Sometimes I've been able to go to a French or Italian dictionary and find the word, which leaves me wondering what's wrong with the translation programs. It can be insanely frustrating.

Miladysa said...


I think my husband and children must have a babel chip because sometimes that do not seem to understand a word I say! ;-D

Ropi said...

Well you may be surprised but it is very hard to translate something and translate it back to the original message with absolute precisity.

Baino said...

Wuffa that it does but not the ones under the kilt!

Melissa I love those websites that have pictures of poorly translated signs, particularly in Japan and China (you can actually translate via Japanese,Chinese and Korean but I thought the post was long enough!) Clearly I have too much time on my hands!

Chris I guess a translation program only has a limited vocabulary and relies on correct grammar and as we know, the grammar of other languages is far more 'strict' than that of English, it's such a hybrid! Ginocchio though does mean 'knee' weird that it didn't translate!

Miladysa, I have the same problem, mine just say, we're not deaf, we're just ignoring you!

Quite so Ropi, you would know and you do it very well, then again, to translate into English, you can get things muddled up and we still understand what is meant. I guess that's why it's such a universal language.

Quickroute said...

Unfortunately - that's how my english to spanish translations normally work out and there are howls of laughter from the inlaws

laughingwolf said...

indeed not! :O lol

Anonymous said...

That was totally brilliant just cracked me up for solid 10 minutes. (Babellate that! hehe)
I always say translators won't become obsolete in a hurry, thanks for proving how it just doesn't work when there are so many variants in a complex sentence, plus the computer doesn't really understand colloquialism. It doesn't know which word to pick, when there are several alternatives.
Mind you, if you carried out the exact same experiment, with the exact sequence of languages and the original text, with the exception of AI and actuall use human translators, you'd still find your source text considerably different than the final translated text even if it loosely carried the same meaning.

@Miles ~ Swedish Chef is the schnitz! He rules forever and ever!


Jay said...

That's hilarious! ROFL!

Perforated rabbits - rabbits that punch - garden of two bases ... sounds like you have a war going on out there!

No wonder your bloody knee hurts!


Jay said...

That's hilarious! ROFL!

Perforated rabbits - rabbits that punch - garden of two bases ... sounds like you have a war going on out there!

No wonder your bloody knee hurts!


Baino said...

Hehe thought you'd like that Chicka! You are teh bomb! "Schnitz" I'm so stealing that!

Jay don't get me started on wabbits. I used to think them cute but nope, they're horrible destructive little bastard that are undermining my shed, my paddock, my house . ..too many to shoot! And they're trixy themses wabitses. More trixy than Hobbitses my precious.

Ropi said...

Well, the answer to question "why is English universal?" you will find the answer in history books and not in the structure of language. If Hungarians colonised the half globe you may be speaking Hungarian and then Hungarian would be universal. That would be useful only if you prefer swearing because Hungarian has the largest swearing vocabulary on Earth.

Anonymous said...

A friend had a Chinese student staying with him recently. The student had one of those translators.

One lazy Sunday afternoon my friend asked the student if he wanted to go for a spin in the car (an Irish Sunday pasttime where people that spend all week stuck in traffic jams decide, on a Sunday, to go for a nice leisurly spin (a.k.a drive) and clog up all the roads, the mind boggles.

So, on inputting the colloquial phrase 'spin in the car' into his translator a look of horror immediately swept across the student's face and he ran out of the room, dropping his translator on the way, screaming 'No thanks Mr Joe, no thanks!!!'.

Joe, me mate, was a little more than surprised and went to pick up the translator to return it to the student, when on the screen he saw 'to rotate very rapidly in an automotive vehicle'.

No wonder he was scared.