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The perils of relying on Google's translator, or "Risk explains google".
December 5, 2010 11:04 PM   Subscribe

Google still has a lot of work to do on its translator.
posted by Defenestrator (157 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Translation Party does this with a much better design and a lot less ads.
posted by ayerarcturus at 11:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [21 favorites]


It's fun trying to find questions which translate into answers.

"Where are you going" after 56 questions becomes "South".
posted by doublehappy at 11:10 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


meh.
translated 10 times, still meh.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:11 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Amusingly, from "I want to win the lottery" it got "I won the lottery" in 30 translations. Does Google support magical thinking?
posted by Iosephus at 11:16 PM on December 5, 2010


I would like to buy some cheese and some butter. --> "I think the cheese and butter for sale."

My ESL students can never seem to understand how I know when they've used Google (or some other site) to translate their Japanese in English. Here's a hint: it's pretty common in Japanese to omit subjects. Google doesn't know what to do without a subject, so it mostly just plops 'it' in everywhere there's supposed to be a subject.

I haven't gotten any 'It puts the lotion in the basket' yet, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time and finding the right lesson plan.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:18 PM on December 5, 2010 [29 favorites]


Yeah, I hope it doesn't result in tragedies like that SMS text localization error.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:19 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow. With fifty translations, I created a conversation!

Original text:

"I would like to buy some cheese and some butter."

...50 translations later we get:

"I want to sell butter and cheese."

posted by Ghidorah at 11:19 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's difficult to imagine that anyone with even a fleeting acquaintance with more than one language would expect natural language translations to be infinitely reversible. Frankly in many instances a good translator is going to be more susceptible to this problem than a bad one.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:21 PM on December 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Starting phrase: What is this watermelon doing here?

Bad Translator: What the watermelon?
Translation Party: Well, I have some watermelon, please fill it. Why do not you need it?

Winner: Translation Party!
posted by mexican at 11:21 PM on December 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


ObCynicism aside, it's still a fantastic resource.
posted by RavinDave at 11:21 PM on December 5, 2010


After 50 translations, "I don't think that word means what you think it means" becomes "I believe that this is not an explanation." Which is true, I guess.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:24 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


FTA: Machine translations are useful for getting a general idea about what text written in a foreign language means. However, "general idea" isn't exactly accurate; the translator literally translates (word for word) the text which often results in grammatically incorrect, if not completely incoherent, text.

That may have been true of early web translators, but Google's service is a bit more sophisticated. IIRC, they have a corpus of each language with vetted English translations. When a sentence is entered, the first few words are compared to this database and the most common English phrase is returned. Then it shifts over by one word, and returns the next phrase. All the overlapping sentence fragments are then assembled at the end using the most statistically likely English translation. This is why it tends to handle slang and idiomatic phrases better than you might expect, and why they're able to cover so many more languages than its competitors. Their FAQ goes into more detail.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:28 PM on December 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


The most eloquent line from Waiting for Guffman -- 'I hate you and I hate your ass face' -- came back as 'I hate it I hate my face and ass.'

Corky St. Clair would never say that.
posted by grounded at 11:29 PM on December 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


My cat likes cheese
My cat has become something of a cheese
My cat has become a kind of cheese

Eqilibrium found
You should move to Japan!


Maybe I will, Translation Party, maybe I will.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:30 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


You should move to Japan!

Maybe I will, Translation Party, maybe I will.


Hmm. I'm growing suspicious of Translation Party's agenda:

I will never go to Japan.
becomes
I'm going to Japan.
Oh, really, Translation Party?
posted by The World Famous at 11:35 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dear god, this translator just provided me with a terrifying scrolling glimpse into the future based on what will happen if I don't finish the final paper for my reading seminar right this instant:

#1: "I ought to be working on my paper right now."
#5: "I get a job in my work now."
#6: "Can I get a job in my work now."
#21: "I present my work."
#29: "I left my job."
#30: "I quit my job."
#43: "I am leaving my job."
#50: "Resigned from my job."

So let's just hope this really is just a poor translator and not some sort of horrible prediction of my future perpetual unemployment. Guess I'll get back to work on that paper, though, just in case...
posted by lilac girl at 11:36 PM on December 5, 2010 [29 favorites]


"Where is the bathroom?", when translated 56 times results in "Thanks Kicker".

The bad news: You may one day piss your pants in foreign country shouting "Thanks Kicker!?" in hopes of being pointed to the nearest bathroom.

The good news: I now have a name for my band.
posted by quadog at 11:44 PM on December 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


"To be or not to be, that is the question", after ten translations, sort of answers itself:

"In order not to be a problem."
posted by Malor at 11:45 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Metafilter" becomes "Text".

"Best of the Web" becomes "Home".

Sounds about right.
posted by kmz at 11:52 PM on December 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


After 50 translations, "I like to walk through the city" became "The city, my legs."

I've been working hard on German for the last year--cramming an awful lot of grammar in my head--so it amused me no end that the point where that translation went to all hell was the English-German-English transition.
posted by colfax at 12:07 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope I am not the only one with an inner middle school boy* who after a few rounds started entering naughty words to see what would happen.

*I have never been a middle school boy.
posted by naoko at 12:08 AM on December 6, 2010


Dude.
posted by mullingitover at 12:09 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


Watch it take 'I have a dream.' through 56 translations.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:10 AM on December 6, 2010


I could play with this thing all day.

"That's it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?"moves through plaintive requests for intercourse to He-Man having sloppy seconds.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:16 AM on December 6, 2010


Also!

"Reality is broken" becomes:

"Very funny."
posted by colfax at 12:17 AM on December 6, 2010


Several years ago I took a bunch of awful poems I wrote in high school, popped them in the translator, took them out a few languages and then brought then back to English.

It didn't take out thr spirit of the angst, but it did render it somehow even less readable. And for that I will be forever grateful.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:19 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best thing I have discovered so far with this tool is that translating Coventry to Macedonian results in the Macedonian word for Britain.

Warning residents of Coventry: expect lost Macedonians coming your way.
posted by iwillcatchthebird at 12:25 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


My hovercraft is full of eels.

AFRIKAANS : My hovercraft is vol van paling
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels
ALBANIAN : automjet ime është plot me ngjalat
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels
ARABIC : بلادي الحوامات مليء الأنقليس
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels
BELARUSIAN : Маё судна на паветранай падушцы поўна вугроў
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels
BULGARIAN : Моят кораб на въздушна възглавница е пълен с змиорки
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels
CATALAN : El meu aerolliscador està ple d'anguiles
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels
CHINESE : 我的气垫船是鳗鱼全
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eel
CHINESE_SIMPLIFIED : 我的气垫船是鳗鱼全
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eel
CHINESE_TRADITIONAL : 我的氣墊船充滿鰻魚
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels
CROATIAN : Moj letjelice je pun jegulje
Back to ENGLISH : My hovercraft is full of eels

It seems to be working well for the important stuff.
posted by Ahab at 12:28 AM on December 6, 2010 [55 favorites]


'There is no spoon' became 'No parking!'
posted by TwoWordReview at 12:38 AM on December 6, 2010


Have you ever really loved a woman?
through 56 becomes
Like what?
It was translating perfectly until it hit Galician.

when I look at you I touch myself -> if you want to know
posted by Night_owl at 12:43 AM on December 6, 2010


There has to be some mistake > Monday Pastel Dust.
posted by Elmore at 1:15 AM on December 6, 2010


Pretentious English major than I am, I tossed in some Hamlet:

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
becomes
Nothing good or bad, that's me.
becomes
Something good or bad I am.

(Though it took 50 translations.)

I really liked Google Translate when I lived in Egypt, though. I can't read Arabic (bad expat!), and sometimes I wanted to read a local news story. Google Translate gave me the gist of it, plus lolz.
posted by bluedaisy at 1:19 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: the gist of it, plus lolz.
posted by kmz at 1:26 AM on December 6, 2010 [17 favorites]


When I was in ninth grade, my friends and I would do this with Babelfish. I was late to the party, and they had already discovered a translation we could never surpass. When you translated "vampire bat" from English to German, you got "Vampire Hieb." The magic happened when you translated back to English. What you got was:

"Irish blow blow Irish blow"

We never figured out what that meant.
posted by gc at 1:26 AM on December 6, 2010 [6 favorites]


Google's translator is Wikileaks preferred method of encryption.
posted by ImsoAeriginal at 2:06 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It only takes 10 translations to convert the first sentence of Ulysses into bizarre Twilight fanfic:

"Bella, fill in the mirror, the first World Cup wire foam tank."

30 translations and we're into pseudo-Japanese insanity:

"Well, the first metal tank Tankusurajjimariwarudokappu - eventually."
posted by naju at 2:13 AM on December 6, 2010


My favorite AI test phrase: to be or not to be, that is the question.

Convey this: To be or not be a problem

Translation party: This is not a problem
SENSEI!
posted by Twang at 2:15 AM on December 6, 2010


"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"
-> "But I fear fear"
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 2:25 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The truth is out there." (ten translations later) "The truth is out there."

Hmmmm....
posted by Mike D at 2:47 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]



Dante, already translated from Italian to English:

"a She-Wolf drove upon me, a starved horror ravening and wasted beyond all belief. She seemed a rack for avarice, gaunt and craving. Oh many the souls she has brought to endless grief. "

...10 translations later we get:

": Wolf, running to me, terror and hunger began to lose credibility. Desire and greed for the platform and support us. The idea of infinite boredom."

...20 translations later we get:

"Wolf, who started working for me, fear and hunger, to lose their credibility. Lust and greed are the platforms and support. The idea of infinite boredom."

...30 translations later we get:

"Instead I started working for the wolf, starve, they lose confidence. Desire and desire is to support the platform. Annwi ideas are endless."

...40 translations later we get:

"Instead, they lost faith in the twilight began to work against hunger. The desire and willingness to support this platform. Annual ideas are endless."

...50 translations later we get:

"Instead, they have lost faith in the darkness began to work against hunger. Interested in helping in this forum. ideas are endless years."

Then I plugged translation #50 into the translator and translated that 50 times,
and got

"Otherwise, loss of appetite and interest in the early years of deep meditation, representatives of the House of disbelief ... ""

whoa. representatives of the house of disbelief. i quit.
posted by cometwendy at 2:57 AM on December 6, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Love in an elevator, living it up while I'm going down"

...56 translations later we get:

"I love life."
posted by banishedimmortal at 2:58 AM on December 6, 2010


'The Lattice-work Gun-stinging Insect.'

"Gun-slinging?" Joe asked.

"No. Gun-stinging."

"'Lattice-work,'" Joe said, pondering. "Network. 'Stinging Insect.' Wasp?"
He scratched with his pen, stumped.

"And you got this from the translation computer at Kobe? Bee," he decided. " 'Gun,' so Gun-bee. Heater-bee. Laserbee. Rod-bee. _Gat_." He swiftly wrote that down. "Gat-wasp, gat-bee. Gatsby. 'Lattice-work.' That would be a grating. Grate." He had it now.

"The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald." He tossed down his pen in triumph.

"Ten points for you," Gauk said. He made a tally. "That puts you even with Hirshmeyer in Berlin and slightly ahead of Smith in New York. You want to try another?"

Joe said, "I have one." From his pocket he got out a folded sheet; spreading it out on his desk he read from it, " 'The Male Offspring in Addition Gets Out of Bed.' " He eyed Gauk then, feeling the warmth of knowledge that he had gotten a good one--this, from the larger language-translating computer in downtown Tokyo.

"A phononym," Gauk said effortlessly. "Son, sun. The Sun Also Rises. Ten points for me." He made a note of that.

Angrily, Joe said, "Those for Which the Male Homosexual Exacts Transit
Tax."

"Another by Serious Constricting-path," Gauk said, with a wide smile. "For Whom the Bell Tolls."

"'Serious Constricting-path'?" Joe echoed wonderingly.

"Ernest Hemingway."


The game in Galactic Pot Healer Philip K. Dick. Because I read that I was just waiting for translate programs to become available. I've wasted many a work hour doing this manually for years. Thanks for linking a perfect time waster.
posted by doctoryes at 3:27 AM on December 6, 2010 [9 favorites]


"I eat babies with cheese for lunch on Tuesday" becomes" Tuesday at lunchtime, but you can not eat cheese" after 50 translations. So I guess I won't have cheese with my baby lunch this week.
posted by dortmunder at 3:49 AM on December 6, 2010


"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. "

...50 translations later we get:

"Loaded, four officers and seven continents, including the U.S. commitment to provide a new vision."
posted by dortmunder at 3:53 AM on December 6, 2010


That's strange. I plugged in "representatives of the house of disbelief" and got "metafilter".
posted by sebastienbailard at 4:16 AM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


Seems to be easily tongue twisted.

Original text:

"peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
a peck of pickled peppers peter piper picked
if peter piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
how many pickled peppers did peter piper pick?"

...40 translations later we get:

"If you decide to do Peter Piper, schools, trains, peppers, Peter Piper, Germany, cucumber kimchi, seasoned pepper, and wait?"

posted by breakfast! at 4:33 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

...56 translations later we get:

"This is good, you're right."
posted by metaxa at 4:34 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Girl, you'll be a women soon."

...10 translations later we get:

"Girl, you're a woman in the near future."

...20 translations later we get:

"Young is a woman."

...30 translations later we get:

"Yang's wife."
posted by Beardman at 4:47 AM on December 6, 2010


"Lo, an undetached rabbit-part"

...50 translations later we get:

"In this case, rabbit"

TAKE THAT QUINE
posted by Beardman at 4:51 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Sometimes life time in the Apple Music Store, we are green, brown, happiness is a combination of pages."

But if it was still Dylan Thomas reading it, it would be perfect. (Actually, this isn't a bad approximation of the first year undergraduate criticism I wrote.)
posted by ~ at 4:58 AM on December 6, 2010


"Perhaps you should try sunglasses."
...10 translations later we get:
"Maybe you should try to score."

hmmm...
posted by sunshinesky at 5:01 AM on December 6, 2010


"1910 112 cities." started out as "$20, same as in town."
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:02 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Resistance is futile.
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:08 AM on December 6, 2010


I'm kind of curious how much better a chain of human translators would do.

I had Google translate turn a German sentence saying something like "We insist Hamas recognise the state of Israel." into "Hamas must not recognise the state of Israel." That was went I decided I wasn't sending the link to someone unless I translated it myself and I couldn't be bothered.
posted by hoyland at 5:10 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text: "Bugger me blue"
...50 translations later we get: "My President"
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:11 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lady Gaga seems ot be an excellent test subject for this kind of thing.

Original text:
"I want you ugly, I want you diseased."

...56 translations later we get:
"Not bad, I have a medical problem."
posted by ZsigE at 5:15 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


That may have been true of early web translators, but Google's service is a bit more sophisticated.

So we're being entertained watching a markov chain move over google's database. They should apply this automatically to TV scripts for a 'People who do not like the film' version.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:16 AM on December 6, 2010


Metafilter:after-thinking beans board
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:17 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Original text:

"Best of the web?"

...50 translations later we get:

"Is it really better?"
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:19 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Have my car detailed."

...10 translations later we get:

"No data on the hard disk."
posted by chrillsicka at 5:21 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


We have a lot of multilingual people on metafilter. Can we get 30 people to play the translation game on a paragraph of text and compare it to google's results?
posted by empath at 5:24 AM on December 6, 2010


Revenge is ours. --> Spinach
posted by zeikka at 5:37 AM on December 6, 2010


"MetaTalk"

...20 translations later...

"The concept of a modern society."

That's...one interpretation, sure.
posted by armage at 5:50 AM on December 6, 2010


I wrote something similar a while back to translate back and forth... none of my posted examples work exactly the same way any longer, since it seems they tweak the translator.
posted by rottytooth at 6:00 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"Birth is simply a prophecy of death."

...56 translations later we get:

"Dog days."
posted by grubi at 6:19 AM on December 6, 2010


I can't believe it's not butter

40 later

I do not think so
posted by MysticMCJ at 6:20 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


"We hold these truths to be obvious understanding that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator certain rights, on Wednesday, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


also

Top senators from both parties indicate a deal is likely that would extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans and extend unemployment benefits.

becomes

Two members of Congress mass unemployment, tax cuts President Bush's Supreme Court.

I'm going to start running all CNN headlines and summaries through this.
posted by MysticMCJ at 6:24 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines."

...56 translations later we get:

"Finger wolves."
posted by grubi at 6:25 AM on December 6, 2010


Recently, there was a bit of a hubaloo about Google Translate mucking up the phrase non ho votato Berlusconi in a couple of languages.

Instead of the correct "I did not vote for Berlusconi" you got "I voted for Berlusconi". Stick any other politician's name in, though, and you got the correct phrase.

Fixed now, but I rather wonder what other lovely little Easter Eggs there might be in Google Translate...
posted by romakimmy at 6:27 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"Is this something I would need a television to understand?"

...56 translations later we get:

"Why the TV, she knew it or not."
posted by grubi at 6:35 AM on December 6, 2010


"Otherwise, loss of appetite and interest in the early years of deep meditation, representatives of the House of disbelief ... ""

This is oddly beautiful. Hrm.
posted by Avenger at 6:36 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Original text:

"I smell sex and candy. Hey, yeah."

...56 translations later we get:

"セックスアントサキャンティセンター Hi!"


I... uh... there are no words to describe this. (Which itself was translated into "Description"".)
posted by grubi at 6:37 AM on December 6, 2010


HERE IS YOUR WINNER, PEOPLE:

Original text:

"Fuck you."

...56 translations later we get:

"Soybean Resources"
posted by grubi at 6:39 AM on December 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain
...56 translations later
Spain, the rain God.

This not only proves that machine translation is perfect, but also the existence of God.
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:40 AM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Still can't figure out what "My nipples explode with delight!" means in Hungarian.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 6:45 AM on December 6, 2010


The first full sentence I learned in Japanese was along the lines of "Excuse me, this beer is warm. Can we have another pitcher please?

Original text:

"Excuse me, miss, this beer is warm. May we have another pitcher?"

...50 translations later we get:

"If their beer warm. Alternatively, the bank?"


Pure freaking genius.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:09 AM on December 6, 2010


I'm pretty impressed. "Call me Ishmael" stayed "Call me Ishamael" through 50 translations. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" migrated to "He was the best of times, he was the worst of times." Seriously, it's record is pretty damn good if you ask me.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 7:10 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"It's 106 a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses - hit it!"

...56 translations later we get:

"Note: 10060010 solo 百 六 ○ Chicago, a full tank, the semi-Finals, and glass - hot!"
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:10 AM on December 6, 2010


"I can has cheeseburger"

=

"Mr."
posted by MuffinMan at 7:13 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Original text:

"Maggie is the sweetest cat. She greets me every morning with soft meows."

...10 translations later we get:

"Maggie is sweet but the executioner. She told me every morning with a soft miaows."

--hmmmm......maybe I better keep her out of my bedroom while I'm asleep.
posted by I'm Brian and so's my wife! at 7:14 AM on December 6, 2010


"I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse."

...30 translations later we get:

"I declined the offer."
posted by Fillus at 7:15 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's funny how so many translations end up as the opposite. To wit:

Original text:

"I don't wanna go down to the basement."

...10 translations later we get:

"I will be down to the basement."


And:

Original text:

"I can't get no satisfaction."

...10 translations later we get:

"I have fun."


On the other hand, there's this, which is actually pretty accurate:

Original text:

"Freak out in a moonage daydream!"

...10 translations later we get:

"Moonage strange dream!"

posted by scratch at 7:15 AM on December 6, 2010


"I'm not wearing any pants" after 50 becomes "You are prohibited."
posted by mingo_clambake at 7:16 AM on December 6, 2010


This is like the old "telephone" game we played in elementary school (which I just learned the British call "Chinese whispers"). No need to translate into other languages for meaning to be lost.
posted by headnsouth at 7:17 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"What's the story, morning glory?"

...56 translations later we get:

"Sutorimoningugurori. What does it mean."

I wondered the same thing.
posted by nzero at 7:26 AM on December 6, 2010


Suddenly, a lot of politics make sense:

"Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under."

50 translations later we get:

"good people who care about security."
posted by ijsbrand at 7:31 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I entered "i like puppies" and 50 translations later it says "i like cats." Rad.
posted by ben242 at 7:32 AM on December 6, 2010


Yeah, I remember doing this years ago with earlier web translaters too. My favorite from my college days -- which would have been the late 90's -- was "wow" translated into French. For a long time, this one would was translated as "défaut de la reproduction sonore" -- defect of the sound reproduction. I distinctly remember thinking that would have been a great title for a Stereolab album.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:37 AM on December 6, 2010


On translation party:
"I'm the king of rock I'll take you higher, sucker MCs should call me sire" becomes
"O king of rock would take the higher I must call the sucker MC I stallion" becomes
"I'm the king of rock high sucker MC's should call me a horse. Take" becomes
"MC high horse, you should call me the king of rock sucker you. Please."
posted by Infinite Jest at 7:41 AM on December 6, 2010


Another Mencken classic:

"An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup."

40 translations later we get:

"Availability of soup is the best way to improve."


Or: "A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin."

56 translations later we get:

"Half - Arrogant, but Telecommunications investment funds in common."
posted by ijsbrand at 7:43 AM on December 6, 2010


"Machine translations are inherently unreliable" quickly turned in to "Machine translation is correct." That pretty much says it all, I guess.
posted by saladin at 7:49 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Google's translator is Wikileaks preferred method of encryption.

After 56 translations, "Wikileaks" becomes "Vikileax."
posted by Kabanos at 7:53 AM on December 6, 2010


"it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again", when translated 56 times, becomes "cream and socks."

um... yeah.
posted by palomar at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2010


Something I've been wondering about translation party: can you end up in a loop of length two? That is, say I start with some English text X. I translate it into Japanese and back into English, and get Y. And then I translate Y into Japanese and back into English, and get X back.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:58 AM on December 6, 2010


Here's one to show your kids:

"Is Santa real?"

(56 translations)

"Santa really is."
posted by Kabanos at 7:59 AM on December 6, 2010


"I'm the king of rock I'll take you higher, sucker MCs should call me sire" becomes

It's supposed to be "I am the king of rock/There is none higher." GAWD.

Philistines.
posted by grubi at 8:09 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


bluedaisy:

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
becomes
Nothing good or bad, that's me.
becomes
Something good or bad I am.


You know, web translators were very different then. They didn't have their heads filled with all this Cartesian dualism.
posted by bakerina at 8:17 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries."

...56 translations later we get:

"Listen to the mothers and the elderly, however."

Original text:

"I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective. "

...56 translations later we get:

"I do not think the king. I believe that an independent group."

Original text:

"Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. "

...56 translations later we get:

"System, including the development of women in foreign countries. Not the Court of Appeal was allowed."
posted by ocherdraco at 8:18 AM on December 6, 2010


Picard's opening narration:

“These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

After a bit, this stabilizes at:

"We have a cruise ship: progress and they are a new life, before a new civilization strange, because they are trying to determine whether the mission of the New World in bold."

This feels like gibberish, but Captain Kirk's (which has five-year in the place of continuing and man in the place of one) is sheer brilliance:

": The Mission of the past five years, people can explore these new cruise ship can go to the bold new world of strange new civilization of your life."

I like that a lot.


The Second Amendment to the US Constitution: The status of being free of armed militias appear to have the right to maintain all regulatory violations.

And Juliet's famous musing on the irrelevance of what things are called:

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."


becomes:

? "We have risen to call a different name or something sweet."

posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:19 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"Adventure Time, come on, grab your friends, we'll go to very distant lands. With Jake the Dog and Finn the Human, the fun will never ends; Adventure Time!"

...56 translations later we get:

"Adventures: Jake Fire Dog, and Finland leave the country!"
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:24 AM on December 6, 2010


"HI I'M ON METAFILTER AND I COULD OVERTHINK A PLATE OF BEANS"

becomes, after 20 translations,

"Hi, I'm dying, can not digest the beans"

which sounds to me like a pretty typical day on AskMe.
posted by Jelly at 8:29 AM on December 6, 2010 [3 favorites]


With Metal Gear Solid quotes...

Original text:

"War has changed."

...56 translations later we get:

"I'm brown."

Original text:

"War transforms us, Snake. Into beasts. "

...56 translations later we get:

"Pet snake brown again."

Original text:

"You've got it all wrong. You were the lightning in that rain. You can still shine through the darkness."

...10 translations later we get:

"You are completely wrong. I was in the air and rain. You can glow in the dark."
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:29 AM on December 6, 2010


"hardcore taters"

...50 translations later we get:

"Sunday League"
posted by emmtee at 8:31 AM on December 6, 2010


madcaptenor: "Something I've been wondering about translation party: can you end up in a loop of length two?"

Yes. Although they call it a loop of four. If it discovers this, it will terminate the party and say so in red at the bottom. For instance, try it with "Maybe you think I don't deserve you" and you should see what I mean.
posted by Night_owl at 8:31 AM on December 6, 2010


Oy.

"Swimming in the ocean, laughing in the rain; sipping on some moonshine, rocking in the grain." is "Months of rain in the Plains Advantages seafood and a smile."

And then:

"There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven."
is "Women's gold, the air is purchased."

UM:

"Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us, only sky." is: "I believe that hell is very easy for us red."

Weezer's line "I think I'd be good for you and you'd be good for me." is "It will be good for me."

TMBG: "I'm your only friend; I'm not your only friend, but I'm a little glowing friend. But really, I'm not actually your friend. But I am." becomes "But honey and easy. But in truth, you and your friends?"

And my own lyric "I'd be happy to be miserable with you. I'd hate to be happy alone." becomes "I will be glad to discuss with."
posted by grubi at 8:33 AM on December 6, 2010


Good grief, even I know it's not "You and me put on a bad romance." Of course, if you're starting out with something that's wrong and/or grammatically incorrect itself, I don't know what you expect to get from babelfishing.
posted by Gator at 8:34 AM on December 6, 2010


Are there any professional translators in the house? I'd be curious to hear how humans stack up against this, because my understanding (from watching messages go between English and Chinese in my own family) was that even with humans you'd get significant changes after a few iterations.

Actually, in some ways, it was worse, because we would present coherent output that concealed how badly the meaning had been mangled. Things like, "I pricked my finger through the glove and now I'm coming home" becoming "I cut my finger off" by the time my boss heard about it.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:36 AM on December 6, 2010


"We fill the silence with our own insecurities"

...56 Translations later we get:

"We continue to believe that"

Which is starting to feel a bit like a Zen kōan.
posted by quin at 8:41 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Fuck you." becomes "Soybean Resources."
"Soybean Resources." becomes "Seville."
"Seville." becomes "Seveileia."
"Seveileia." becomes "Tsao Thomas."
"Tsao Thomas." becomes "Kaou part."
"Kaou part." becomes "花 押 countries."
"花 押 countries." becomes "County."
"County." becomes "Location."
"Location." becomes "City."
and "City." becomes "City."

Damn. "Fuck you." becomes "City."
posted by grubi at 8:43 AM on December 6, 2010


It's supposed to be "I am the king of rock/There is none higher." GAWD.

Oh dear. *hangs head in shame*. Don't know where I got that from.

The correct lyric finishes at:

All football, my height, MC and my cattle, should be called the king of rock.

After passing through:
Any sucker MC I have high you should call me sire, king of rock
All sucker MC's I is high, but to me you must call the bulls, the king of rock
The MC's I'm a sucker for all to me, is high, you should call the cow, the king of rock
I have all the sucker MC's my height, cattle should be called the king of rock
Sucker of all, my height, you must call me the king of rock cattle MC
All soccer, my height, MC and should be called my beef is the king of rock.
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:43 AM on December 6, 2010


"In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit."

...56 translations later we get:

"Obst Hall."
posted by grubi at 8:45 AM on December 6, 2010


Wow! inflation adjustment built right in!

Original text:
"Once I built a railroad, made it run, made it run against time. Brother can you spare a dime?"

...10 translations later we get:
"After completion of the project railway. Brother, can you give me a penny?"
posted by hank at 8:47 AM on December 6, 2010


Beowulf:

"Yo! We have heard tell of the majesty of the Speardanes, of the Folk-kings, how the princes did valorous deeds."

...56 translations later we get:

"Hi! People, principles and courage - I heard that the Danish king of England"

Goddamn, that's kinda close to the story. I think someone's messing with us.
posted by grubi at 8:48 AM on December 6, 2010


MetaFilter: Komyunitiueburogu
posted by fings at 8:48 AM on December 6, 2010


"Do you know what "nemesis" means? "A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent." Personified in this case by an 'orrible cunt: me."

...56 translations later we get:

""Enemi"? Or, he said, "connections" (iodine) put it, as I think my body."
posted by grubi at 8:50 AM on December 6, 2010


"We hold these truths to be self-knowledge is, all men are created equal, that they are assets to work to their creator certain rights, the environment, including the right to life, liberty and happiness in the implementation."

20 translations and it's still recognizable. I think that's actually pretty damn impressive.
posted by rbellon at 8:51 AM on December 6, 2010


Sam Jackson's line from Pulp Fiction, translated one sentence at a time goes from:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee."

to

"Selfishness and political rights. In this case, the Researchers of the sisters, on behalf of child protection in according with applicable law is rich in ngoleuni 'RE darkness. For unknown anger, revenge, poison approved by the dark and without Siblings. My teacher, you know, I do not know anyone."
posted by grubi at 8:56 AM on December 6, 2010


From translationparty:
Wine and cheese are two of the most delicious things that humans have ever created
v
The most delicious wine and cheese dish was created by two men.

You've done this before, haven't you?
v
This is not what happened before.
posted by Night_owl at 9:01 AM on December 6, 2010


Original text:
"Let's all work together on this and not fight."
...20 translations later we get:
"Enter to fight Gongtongnuli place."

I hope the UN uses this.
posted by mazola at 9:05 AM on December 6, 2010


"Three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax... you're goddamn right I'm living in the fucking past! "

...56 translations later we get:

"Cats and the normal law, and 3000 years, the largest cotton Dead Western School of friction ... Joy!"

---

"This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!"

...56 translations later we get:

"Devil's work. But something is wrong ass."

---

"God damn you Walter! You fuckin' asshole! Everything's a fuckin' travesty with you, man! And what was all that shit about Vietnam? What the FUCK, has anything got to do with Vietnam? What the fuck are you talking about?"

...56 translations later we get:

"Business, poentshai! Mecca of art! All mixed! But in Vietnam? Vietnam If you have a hammer? As a result, or not."
posted by grubi at 9:05 AM on December 6, 2010


Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?
No idea of the amount 汗Suru right?
Love the idea of the right amount of sweat?
The idea is to use the right amount of sweat?
The idea is to use what is the appropriate amount of sweat?
The idea is to use what is what is the right amount of sweat?
The idea is to use what is what is the appropriate amount of sweat?
The idea is, what do you use the right amount of sweat is what?
The idea is that the appropriate amount of sweat is what do I use it, what is?
The idea is the right amount of sweat I is that we should do something with it, what is?
The idea is, we are the right amount of sweat is that something must be done now, what do?
The idea is, we have the right amount of sweat is what you should do something, what must be done now?
The idea is, we have the right amount of sweat is what you need to do anything now, but what to do, do you?
The idea is, we are using the right amount of sweat, now what to do what you need to do anything, but you do, do you?
The idea is that we need to do anything you what to do now that you are using the proper amount of sweat you, do you?
The idea is we do for you, you do that you need to do something right now that you are using the proper amount of sweat you?
The idea is, we have for you, now you need to do something that you use the proper amount of sweat you?
The idea is that we use the appropriate amount of sweat you now you need to do anything for you, do you?
The idea is, we have the appropriate amount of sweat you now you do, what you need to use something for you?
The idea is that we have now, you will need to use something for you, you have the proper amount of sweat something?
The idea is that now we must use something for you, do you have the proper amount of sweat you something?
The idea now is that we need to use something for you, do you have the proper amount of sweat you something?
The idea is now, with some appropriate amount of sweat, do you have to use something for you?
Ideas do not have anything for you to use, in some appropriate amount of sweat, what now?
The idea, now what do not have the right to use some amount of sweat?
The idea is do not have the right to use some amount of sweat now?
posted by The Confessor at 9:06 AM on December 6, 2010


rbellon: ""We hold these truths to be self-knowledge is, all men are created equal, that they are assets to work to their creator certain rights, the environment, including the right to life, liberty and happiness in the implementation."

20 translations and it's still recognizable. I think that's actually pretty damn impressive.
"

Yeah, not in translation party. Soemthing about the Japanese vs. cycling through the other languages.

"This, we might have if it is correct, it is a maintenance manual tracking in the same way create a live split is obviously free to take into account that you created us these truths."
(20 translations in, 10 Japanese and 10 back to English. No equilibrium was reached.)

Also, ugh. I keep copying and pasting the results when this phrase has failed to reach equilibrium. Normally, it would have eventually done it the second time through. But after three or four times through the party, I have this

"These truths, has been modified to check my coach. You have your face is trying to create a category of information, I Mimashita'm, but I have a life, we have final details the king have been heard Please check You can enjoy these screens though. The same requirement can be"

This is terrible.
posted by Night_owl at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2010


"Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son."

...56 translations later we get:

"Hatch can destroy the character of government even the Galaxy and the father of the child."

---

"May the force be with you."

...56 translations later we get:

"Maybe too much."

---

"Adventure - heh. Excitement - heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless."

...56 translations later we get:

"Event - Welcome to Utah - Hello, I hope not."

---

"For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."

...56 translations later we get:

"Valuable part of our contacts in the Soviet army in the life of the party. The problem is very thick and soft."

---

"Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."

...56 translations later we get:

"Households begin to understand the role of the bulb. So, in the season. Conflicts and Milky White is Injured, we can solve the problem."

---

"There will be a substantial reward for the one who finds the Millennium Falcon. You are free to use any methods necessary, but I want them alive. No disintegrations."

...56 translations later we get:

"Blue, it would be nice, "Yes, I know enough to know not to buy."
posted by grubi at 9:14 AM on December 6, 2010


"These aren't the droids you're looking for"

gives us:

"It has much more."

"I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!"

gives us:

"I agree to the axis of shit car!"

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers"

gives us:

"I have a couple of brothers are happy with the present."

"I like big butts and I cannot lie"

gives us:

"There are other examples."

Something for everybody there.
posted by ob at 9:19 AM on December 6, 2010


Oddly enough, when I entered their example of "You and me put on a bad romance" the result wasn't "I love you" but ""Smile again".
posted by jeffmik at 9:19 AM on December 6, 2010


or, if I include "" I get "my mistake again, and"
posted by jeffmik at 9:20 AM on December 6, 2010


And, saving the best for last:

"It's not you, it's me"

gives us:

"Abercrombie and skin from cuts and Ferrets."
posted by ob at 9:23 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Original text:

"taters "

...10 translations later we get:

"Tate"

Conclusion: Taters gotta Tate.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:41 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


"funk my wagnalls"

...10 translations later we get:

"I Funk Wagnalls"
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2010


Hmm. I'm growing suspicious of Translation Party's agenda:


You're telling me. I entered "I can't find my pants" and they told me they were hiring.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:45 AM on December 6, 2010


"I have a fish. In my pants."

...10 translations later we get:

"Fishing. In my pants."
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:48 AM on December 6, 2010


"I love you" translates into "I love the details". BUT, how it got there is fascinating. The translation is consistently "I love you" until Serbian, when "И лове иоу" becomes "I love iou" - I guess и can be transliterated as either "i" or "y". (Actually, is that even a real translation?) "iou" becomes "debentures" (i.e. debt, as in... I.O.U.) in the next translation (Slovakian), then "notes" and, finally, "details".
This is ridiculous.
posted by punchdrunkhistory at 9:57 AM on December 6, 2010


"These are not the droids you are looking for."--50 translations--"If you are looking for a job."

I'd think it would be the opposite....

**

"A wretched hive of scum and villainy."--30--"Poor Lumen."

I don't think Star Wars and Dexter would mix well.

**

"Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten."--50--"Orgasm by yourself every time you kill puppies Lord."

Well. Okay, then.

**

"Variety is the spice of life"--56--"The truth is eternal."

Deep, man.

**
One that really freaks me out:

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."--56--"Iran is the key to change the world."

**
And, my favorite:

"Someone is wrong on the internet."--30--"It happens."
posted by tzikeh at 10:31 AM on December 6, 2010


"God does not play dice."

=

"God is not."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:08 AM on December 6, 2010


Our ski resorts, snow and easy access to the game! Bob Ring, height and lighting. This is good, he sang a song in three days!

"Jingle Bells" sounds like marketing-speak now. I'm not sure I want to go to a ski resort where the evening entertainment's only virtues are being tall, well-lit and extremely slow, though.

(Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh, o'er the fields we go, laughing all the way! / Bells on bob-tail ring, making spirits bright. / What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight!)
posted by gracedissolved at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2010


"The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things: of shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings."

becomes

"The hippocampus, the pitch of the cabbage, and the king began recently."

Well, I see the difficulties. But I cannot guess at the processes with

"My dog has no nose. Really? How does he smell? Terrible!"

which becomes

"Gaereulhasigi nose. Really? And he? Pictures!"
posted by StephenB at 11:29 AM on December 6, 2010


Continuing on the the above theme:

Original text:

"your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries"

...56 translations later we get:

"The dog, his sister and his mother, father, Berry."
posted by nzero at 12:36 PM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"Erotic city, can't you see, f*** so pretty you and me"

...56 translations later we get:

"In the city, and my favorite, the true nature of evil."
posted by nzero at 12:38 PM on December 6, 2010


"God plays dice"

->

"God."

I think this implies a newer version of Euler's "proof" of God's existence:

iħdψ/dt = Ĥψ therefore God exists. Reply!
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:31 PM on December 6, 2010


He's all hat and no cattle.
彼はすべての帽子とは牛です。
He is all hat and cattle.
彼はすべての帽子をかぶり、牛です。
He is all hat, and a cow.
彼はすべての帽子、牛です。
His hat is all bull.
彼の帽子は、すべての牛です。
His hat is all bull.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:00 PM on December 6, 2010


"Land of the free and home of the brave" turns into
"Affordable land and homes in the dark"
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:05 PM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality."

...40 translations later we get:

"Is this true? This is just a fiction? Save your receipt to escape reality."
posted by pernoctalian at 2:33 PM on December 6, 2010


Wait . . . is this how Beck gets the lyrics to his songs?!
posted by quadog at 2:34 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


17:30 <> Original text:
17:30 <> "my anus is full of slithering fungus"
17:30 <> ...10 translations later we get:
17:30 <> "My article is full of mushrooms Sailing"
posted by tehloki at 2:36 PM on December 6, 2010


Translate "sodomize" into latin and you get "pedicabo."

I know a few pedicab drivers who will be either thrilled or dismayed to learn this.
posted by tehloki at 2:36 PM on December 6, 2010


Translate "sodomize" into latin and you get "pedicabo."

As memorably used by Catallus:

Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo:

I will sodomize you and face-fuck you
posted by empath at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok someone needs to make this beatbox.
posted by doublehappy at 3:16 PM on December 6, 2010


Original text:

"Do not taunt happy fun ball"

...56 translations later we get:

"A famous joke."
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 3:24 PM on December 6, 2010


Actually, I wonder if this would be a good way to compare authors' clarity and conciseness. Drop some Hemingway and David Foster Wallace in there and see which makes it through.

"A student of the game. Favourite game of financial security. You disable or enable the study did not consider, I do not know exactly what you want to convince someone ... Seriously."
posted by doublehappy at 3:26 PM on December 6, 2010


"My aunt's pen is on the table" — a cliche sentence from French lessons ("la plume de ma tante est sur la table") — 10 translations later is still "my aunt's pen is on the table".
posted by beagle at 4:40 PM on December 6, 2010


My standard for these has long been, "There's not enough room in here to swing a cat."

56 translations later we get: "Most of the discussion." Although along the way we did hit "Many chat rooms."
posted by jocelmeow at 4:59 PM on December 6, 2010


"Beethoven played the piano very loudly"

...10 translations later we get:

"Listen to Beethoven's piano is very difficult"

I bet it is.
posted by Namlit at 5:32 PM on December 6, 2010


ITALIAN : Io odio le scimmie
Back to ENGLISH : I hate monkeys
JAPANESE : 私はサルを利用しています
Back to ENGLISH : I am using the monkey
KOREAN : 내가 원숭이를 사용하고
Back to ENGLISH : I used a monkey
LATVIAN : Es mērkaķis
Back to ENGLISH : I am a monkey
LITHUANIAN : Esu beždžionė
Back to ENGLISH : I am a monkey
MACEDONIAN : Јас сум мајмун
Back to ENGLISH : I am a monkey
MALAY : Saya monyet
Back to ENGLISH : My monkeys
MALTESE : xadini Tiegħi
Back to ENGLISH : My monkeys
posted by ServSci at 7:36 PM on December 6, 2010


Back in the day, Babelfish would take "Dachshund" through German and back to English and give you:

Dogdog dog.

To this day I still occasionally call them that, with an extra-long pause at the space.
posted by mendel at 9:28 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rather than think up my own passage to translate, I wondered what sort of people put something like this up on the web. The text from their "Careers" page explains a lot about this whole exercise (I swear I didn't run this through their translator at all):
Translation Services USA looks for talents!

Join the company of 100+ totally cool and awesome!

We love to compete and we admire people who are ambitious, smart and self educated (!!). We are on a constant hunt for bright individuals to join us for both full-time positions as well as freelance contracts.

If you dreamed about joining a cool Web 2.0 type company, but didn't want to relocate to Palo Alto, CA, then Translation Services USA is a right choice. We are based in New York City and we do really well!
posted by yiftach at 10:49 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Their Careers page, sorry
posted by yiftach at 11:18 PM on December 6, 2010


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