So I said to myself, “Self? What do you think about exploring the topic of translation using free online translation sites?” I thought it was a grand idea, and told myself so. “Aces!” said I. This post is in reference to, “Translation, Please?” that appeared here at RFACM recently. If you would like a laugh, have a quick read.
This is my reasoning as to how such a spam comment came into being. Why I would have received such a comment (I can’t remember which post it was attached to, but believe me, it was totally irrelevant) is beyond me. In my reply to a comment from Doug, I made the following suggestion:
“It seems in some way or other to be advice for new college students in how to stay focused for your classes, how you choose study partners, and also some basic hygiene lessons for dorm showers. But, who knows? It is most definitely written by someone for whom English is not his/her first language (or even fifth!). Sort of makes me think of the assembly instructions you get for products made in Japan or China. The English translations of those can be absolutely hysterical.
What really gets me about those translations is that they were likely done by an employee who said that s/he had fluency in English. Perhaps they were even hired for that job! S/he must have gotten out his/her trusty Chinese-English dictionary and then just had at it. They failed, however, to do a reverse translation to check it. Have you ever done that? Go to a translation site, and write out a line in English, then ask for it to be translated into Chinese (or whatever). Once you get the translation, ask that it be translated back into English. You will be amazed at the result! It’s an amusing way to spend some free time. Or it can be frightening in terms of international relations. . . Perhaps I’ll do a blog example. Fun!”
So, I took myself up on that offer, and here goes:
In a translation site online, I asked for a translation into traditional Chinese the following:
“Little boy blue, come blow your horn! The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn!”
Here’s what they gave me. If I knew nothing about Chinese (and I know VERY little, and none written), I would probably trust this translation. After all, it’s a simple phrase, right? Here’s what I got. You folks who read and speak traditional Mandarin (I assume) Chinese, speak up!
Now, just to check, I did a reverse. This is when I start to get nervous about international relations, (somebody’s finger is on a switch somewhere!), because this is what I got!
The young boy blue color, moves your horn! Sheep in meadow, cow in corn!
Uh, oh! Let’s try that again. Let’s do French instead. Nice, easy language, right?
Le petit bleu de garçon, viennent coup votre klaxon ! Le mouton dans le pré, la vache dans le maïs !
Which was translated back as:
The small blue of boy, come blow your horn! The sheep in the pre one, the cow in corn!
Oh dear! However did that sheep get in the pre one?
Nix that – let’s try Swedish! That should work, right?
Pysblått, kommer slaget din horn! Sheep’sen i ängen, kon i havren!
Reverse? (Prepare yourself!):
Hissing blue, the kind comes your horn! Sheep ‘ late in the meadow, the cow in the oat!
Now, see what’s happened? That hissing blue is going to run out into the oats, and he will miss the cow in the corn altogether! So now our sheep and cow are really lost! One in the pre one and the other in the oat! Dear, dear!
I’m going to give it one more try. Since the US has some sort of relationship with Iraq/Iran – let’s try a little Farsi!
پسر كوچك آبی آمده، شما ضربه بوق! اين گوسفند در چمنزار، گاو در ذرت!
What do you think that they think we thought (My alliterative phrase for the evening.)
Little Boy blue, you blow horns. The sheep in grassland, the bull corn!
I concur! It’s all a lot of bull.
Give it a try yourself! I’ve had about all the hilarity I can take. At least, I’ve had enough. . .