Sunday, 29 April 2007

The Tower of Babel

As I stumble blindly down the superhighway of the internet, I never cease to be amazed by the tools that are out there to make life easier for us writers.

I recently came across Babelfish and Google Translate, two web tools that endeavour to provide translation of pages. Thomas Hamburger Jnr even suggested I might install these tools here on my blog.

Well, I have news for him. I've tried them out. I took this introductory passage from his own blog:

Esteemed Reader,

Harry McFry inhabits that twilight world somewhere between family history and forensic genealogy. The dull drizzle that always accompanies him as he moves about his hometown seems to sum up the stale, solitary lifestyle of someone held in the thrall of their ancestors' lives.

I sincerely hope, for your own sake, that you have kept yourself free from this same, insistent desire to know 'just one more fact'. Thank you for your patronage.

Thomas Hamburger Jnr

and translated it, via Google Translate, into German - with this result:
Geschätzter Leser,
Harry McFry bewohnt diese Dämmerungwelt irgendwo zwischen Familiengeschichte und gerichtlicher Genealogie. Der stumpfe Nieselregen, der ihn immer begleitet, während er über seine Heimatstadt umzieht, scheint, den verjährten, alleinen Lebensstil von jemand aufzusummieren, das im thrall der Leben ihrer Vorfahren gehalten wird.

Ich hoffe herzlichst, für deinen eigenen Grund, daß du dich frei von diesem selben gehalten hast, hartnäckigen Wissensdurst „gerade eine weitere Tatsache“. Für dein Patronat danke.
I then input this German text into Babelfish, to see what it made of it in English. Here's what came back:
Estimated reader,
Harry McFry inhabits this dawn world somewhere between family history and judicial genealogy. The blunt drizzle, which seems always accompanied it, while it moves over its hometown, that fell under the statute of limitations, to sum all one life-style of someone which is held in thrall the lives of their ancestors.
I hope herzlichst for your own reason that you kept yourself free by this same, persistent knowledge thirst a "straight further fact". For your patronage thanks.
For the sake of the planet, I trust that our political masters don't rely on these tools in their dealings with the people who live abroad. I shudder to think how the world would end up, if that were the case.

Just for the minute, then - no thanks, Thomas.

3 comments:

Enumerator said...

Nice one, Bill!

Bill Blunt said...

Thank you, enumerator - or should that be Zähler?

American Barbarian said...

While I can recognize some of the re-translation as sensible German grammar based on what bits and pieces I remember from German class all those years ago, I understand that the results are even sillier if you translate from English to any other language, then to a third language, then back to English all in the same translator.