Loose tongues and oily seamen: Lost in machine translation yet again

www.theregister.co.uk | 7/12/2019 | Staff
Kaliela101 (Posted by) Level 3
Click For Photo: https://regmedia.co.uk/2018/10/23/language_translator.jpg

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My uncle has an airship.

Correct me if I'm wrong but this language course seems a little old-fashioned.

Orders - Cook - Servants

Mother orders Cook to buy more servants.

I should have guessed something was up at the library desk when they mumbled something about having to "fetch the discs". While I was still racking my brains as to where my last remaining CD reader might be stored, she heaved a box set of 10 LP gramophone records onto the desk.

Capstan - Seamen

The rusty capstan must be oiled by seamen.

Not exactly the conversation starter I was looking for but I've heard worse. For an audio snapshot of late Empire, it's quite an ear-opener. In terms of phrasebook usefulness, however, I rate this a flat zero.


I have graunched my marmoset.

Right, that's enough. I think I'll just busk it with a smidgen* of half-remembered O-level French and a giant heap of Google Translate. Ah yes, Google Translate: the slaughterer of homonyms, the meaning-mangler of kings, the Chinese-whisperer of the gods.

Machine - Translation - Results - Trouble - Phrases

To be fair, modern machine translation can produce acceptable results if you take the trouble to present it with context: that is, complete phrases rather than isolated expressions. Also, regional idioms and euphemisms are better understood these days. But it's much more fun to churn the phrase through six languages and then back into English to see how it fared along its worldwide tour.

This way, expressions such as brain-storming tend to get shuffled into brain-damaging, and put your best foot forward becomes step up with your intelligent leg. Now you know why your international colleagues think you're odd: the machine-translated emails you've been sending them must make you sound utterly hatstand.

Language - Result - Concept - Expression - Part

It's not just language that gets mangled as a result of trying to inflict your concept of expression onto that bigger part of the world that remains...
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