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[OT] Babelfish automated translations :-)
Message #1 Posted by Valentin Albillo on 18 July 2003, 6:02 a.m.

Re the subject of automated translations recently seen on this site, when I have to use them in order to translate some text to a language I know next to nothing about, the best strategy I've found to diminish the danger of sending out utter nonsense is to translate *back* to English the resulting foreign translation. If the translation back to English is still sort of understandable, then there's a good chance that the foreign text is also more or less correct.

On the other hand, if the translated-back text has nothing to do with the original, you can bet that the foreign text is garbage too, and it will do you no good to actually send it that way. In that case, try to reformulate your original English text using simpler constructions and words, till the translated-back text comes out ok.

Want some funny examples ? Look at these results I've just got using Babelfish (Altavista's Babelfish Translations). Sending out the translated Spanish text without back-translating verification would make you sound like a Martian, and a pretty dumb one at that ... (as all Spanish-speking visitors will see, the translated spanish text is already utterly absurd, but translating it back to English is just kinda surrealist ! :-)

  • Original English: The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

    Correct Spanish translation: El espiritu es fuerte pero la carne es debil

    Babelfish's translation to Spanish: El alcohol está dispuesto pero la carne es débil

    Babelfish's translation back to English: The alcohol is arranged but the meat is weak

  • Original English: A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse

    Correct Spanish translation: A un caballo ciego, le da lo mismo que le digas que si con la cabeza o que le guiñes un ojo

    Babelfish's translation to Spanish: Un cabeceo tan bueno como guiña a un caballo oculto

    Babelfish's translation back to English: A as good pitching as yaws to an hidden horse

  • Original English: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

    Correct Spanish translation: Todo trabajo y nada jugar hacen de Jack un chico aburrido

    Babelfish's translation to Spanish: Todo el trabajo y ningunas marcas Gato del juego un muchacho embotado

    Babelfish's translation back to English: All the work and no marks Cat of the game a dull boy

  • Original English: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

    Correct Spanish translation: Haz con otros lo que quisieras que hicieran contigo

    Babelfish's translation to Spanish: Haga a otros pues usted hizo que hicieran a usted

    Babelfish's translation back to English: Do to other because you caused that they did you

  • Original English: I'm considering parting with a mint 41 for a nib 15c, display ok, no mushy keys, will throw in a couple of blank mag card pacs for good measure

    Correct Spanish translation: Estoy considerando deshacerme de una 41C en perfecto estado por una 15C nueva en su caja, pantalla perfecta, sin teclas duras de accionar, de regalo incluire un par de paquetes de tarjetas magneticas virgenes

    Babelfish's translation to Spanish: Estoy considerando el dividirme con una menta 41 para una semilla 15c, autorización de la exhibición, ningunas llaves pesadas, lanzaré en un par de los pacs en blanco de la tarjeta del mag para la buena medida

    Babelfish's translation back to English: I am considering dividing to me with a mint 41 for a seed 15c, authorization of the exhibition, no heavy keys, will send in a pair of pacs in target of the card of mag for the good measurement

    This last, typical example, is even worse in the Babelfish Spanish translation than it looks, because the Spanish translation for "mint", which is "menta" has nothing to do with quality or pristine, it's just an aromatic plant. This means "menta 41" is utter nonsense, seems like a brand name for some kind of aromatic liquor or something.

    Similarly, "llaves" (translation of "keys") are those things you use to open doors and such, and have nothing to do with the keys you use in a keyboard, that would be "teclas" in Spanish. So "llaves pesadas" (literally "heavy door keys") makes you think of those big room keys you're provided with in some hotels to prevent you from carrying them out in your pocket and losing them. Pretty far from the original meaning of "mushy keys", uh ? :-)

Best regards from V.


Edited: 18 July 2003, 7:52 a.m.

Re: [OT] Babelfish automated translations :-)
Message #2 Posted by David Smith on 18 July 2003, 3:45 p.m.,
in response to message #1 by Valentin Albillo

The last time I checked (German <--> English) FREETRANSLATION.COM seemed to do quite a bit better job than BABELFISH.

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