Translation can be hard.
September 27, 2007 7:24 AM   Subscribe

A Wicked Deception (youtube). A fun look at (multi) round-trip machine translation. Sadly, it is a simple fattening of Verbindungsyoutube. Of course, humans, as Jules Verne might tell you, can have problems with translations too.

Related previously: Multibabel, translating poetry, and good machine translation?. Main link via Fazed.
posted by skynxnex (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had a Verne post a while back, so if people feel like doing a little compare 'n contrast, it's a good place to find many translations of the books. But I have to disagree with the writer at the Guardian - I happen to have one of the ancient, 19th cent. Louis Mercier translations of 20,000 Leagues and it's amazing. I also prefer the Lattimore or Butler translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey (can't stand Fagles), but I like the newer version of The Stranger because it's more accurate.

It's a strange world, that of translations... but if you put in a little time you can get a lot out of it. There are all sorts of arguments you can get into with yourself and others about the merits of different styles, mixing literal with interpretation, etc. Thanks for the post.. although I'm guessing the machines won't be taking over any time soon.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:18 AM on September 27, 2007

Iterated translations by humans can produce teh funny as well. (warning: self-link)
posted by adamrice at 8:23 AM on September 27, 2007

adamrice, thanks for the great link.

"If God were too fat, what would you be?" cracked me up.

Great post to start the morning.
posted by heatherbeth at 8:51 AM on September 27, 2007

It appears that the profession of translator will be safe for a little while longer. Which is good for me, since I am one. A good one, I might add.
posted by msali at 9:07 AM on September 27, 2007

Don't know nearly as much about the subject as BlackLeotardFront does, but I found that Verne article quite interesting. Thanks for posting it.

I have long collected mistranslation stories (many, it turns out, not true). Surely it's hard to beat the one (apparently true) about the California library years ago that hung out a banner saying "Welcome" in several dozen languages, but it turned out that the Tagalog phrase on it could be translated as "Come in for your circumcision."
posted by LeLiLo at 9:11 AM on September 27, 2007

See also: Ze Frank, 419 Scammer.
posted by gwint at 9:40 AM on September 27, 2007

Err............ Did it sound like Shakespeare to anyone else?
posted by surfdad at 12:37 PM on September 27, 2007

"I wish to neglect the remainder of my life with you."

Comedy gold
posted by bpm140 at 1:25 PM on September 27, 2007

Did it sound like Shakespeare to anyone else?

They were using stage-y voices, and I think in both cases you basically have words and grammar that are so unfamiliar as to sound like nonsense, except the actors are speaking it with conviction.

There's a bit in The Singing Detective where two characters seem to break character by saying their lines to each other, reading out the punctuation (e.g. "But I love you, exclamation point!" "I know you do, full stop." although that isn't the actual dialog.) The implication there is that you're not seeing what the characters are saying, you're seeing what another character, a writer, is thinking they're doing and saying.

It's something like means of breaking the fourth wall without the characters actually doing so in stage terms.
posted by dhartung at 1:55 PM on September 27, 2007

Or how about using the new translation photocopier just announced here in Japan? Put your Japanese language original copy on, press the button, and the 'copy' comes out in English. "Flip a switch and the linguistic parsing works in the opposite direction too."
posted by woodblock100 at 4:04 PM on September 27, 2007

Professionals of the translator are safe, it seems that is longer than a little between. It is good because of me or, because either one, me is 1 years old. Good one, perhaps me it adds.
posted by swell at 9:22 PM on September 27, 2007

Iterated translations by humans can produce teh funny as well.

That was awesome, but kind of depressing too: like most things, a bunch of good people can get completely fucked by a couple of totally incompetent ones.
posted by blacklite at 2:25 AM on September 28, 2007

None of those people were totally incompetent. In fact, all the people involved were probably among the upper tier of J-E/E-J translators. But when trying to translate a hastily scrawled bit of text on the spot with no reference sources, mistakes are inevitable. Just as with a monolingual game of telephone. The problem isn't with the people, it's with the process.
posted by adamrice at 7:25 AM on September 28, 2007

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