Re: Translation

Gary Collins (
Tue, 16 Jun 1998 16:02:36 +0100 (BST)

Steve Jones wrote:

> Reflectorites
> For those (like Glenn) interested in translating non-English journal articles into
> English there is a machine-generated approximate two-way translations between
> English and various modern languages now available on the internet at:
> You plug in your modern language text (anything from a word to a whole
> page) and the machine translates it for you, subject to the drawbacks of
> computer translation. But I'm told (I haven't tried it out yet) it's pretty good,
> and at most times of day, pretty fast.
> Steve

Interestingly, the following appeared in the Feedback column of New Scientist,
31 Jan '98:

schoolkids will be delighted to learn that labouring
over their modern language homework could soon be a
thing of the past. The AltaVista web search engine now
offers a translation service. All you do is hit the
right button and hey presto--you go straight to the top
of the class.

Or perhaps not. Reader Ian Docherty decided to put the
service to the test by running some classic English
poems through it, translating them into German and then
back into English. Here is how a well-known poem of
Wordsworth's came out:

I was surprised lonely as cloud,

Swims on high o'er vales and hill,

When in a course I saw a mass,

A central processor of the

golden Daffodils

Docherty tells us that this reminded him of the old joke
about earlier attempts at computer-assisted translation.
When "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" was
translated into German and then back to English again,
it came out as: "The whisky is OK but the meat has gone


we found Docherty's report so intriguing that we
couldn't resist trying out the service for ourselves. So
we fed in the first paragraph of this story, translating
it into German and then back again. Here is the result:

"Schoolkids, in order to experience that the handling,
over its modern language home working a thing is pleased
of the past soon to be could. Alta the Vista Web search
engine offers now a conversion service. Everything, you,
the right key is struck and hey presto--you go even to
the top side of the category."


For reasons we can only guess at, AltaVista's service is
named after the babel fish in The Hitch-Hikers Guide to
the Galaxy.

Says it all, really.