Lost in Translation


“What happens when an English phrase is translated (by computer) back and forth between 5 different languages? The authors of the Systran translation software probably never intended this application of their program. As of September 2007, translation software is almost good enough to turn grammatically correct, slang-free text from one language into grammatically incorrect, barely readable approximations in another. But the software is not equipped for 10 consecutive translations of the same piece of text. The resulting half-English, half-foreign, and totally non sequitur response bears almost no resemblance to the original.”

The principle is to feed a perfectly normal English sentence into the automated translation, which in turn will process it through ten languages and every time back to English. The result roughly corresponds to the aforementioned description. Some apt examples:

  •  “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”
    becomes “If the moon fixes its eye like a great vector of Fleischpie of the vector of Pizzapie, is the lover.
  • “A cookie is just a cookie, but fig newtons are fruit and cake.”
    becomes “Biskuit has expert of biskuit, but Newton von Fig is fruit and hardens.” [Hilarious!]
  • “This machine talks gibberish, more than I do!”
    becomes “The word says more when queerer than this preoccupation in the unit of me.”

Try it out yourself.


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