Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Imperfect French

The web logs for this site (no personal data) show that yesterday a vistor using a French internet-service provider requested a translation of my Melrouge review via Google Translate, an automated online translator.

This is another freebie from Google, and you do get what you pay for.

There is something charming about reading one's prose rendered in French. At least, if one doesn't look too closely. See for yourself.

To get some idea of the quality of this translation, I fed it backwards through Google Translate, French to English.

This may be an improvement. Where I had ponderously written

This medium-large apple sports a partial crimson blush over yellow-green. Its large lenticels are light tan (greenish where the blush doesn't reach). It is moderately ribbed and firm in the hand.

my retranslated translation reads

This means Big Apple Sports partial crimson blush over yellow-green. His great light lenticels are tan (greenish where the view fails). It is moderately ribbed and farms in hand.

Manifique! My words are recast as those of a breezy and opaque French philosopher.

On most browsers, if you hover your mouse pointer over the text at the translation of Melrouge, Google will show you the original prose. You can then tell Google how to translate better--for instance, to say "Alors" (or "Zut") for "Heck," peut-etre.

Finally, bragging rights to anyone who can identify the book (and author) that first anticipated the recreational use of imperfect translation robots. (And no, it was not Douglas Adams.)


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