Taste the translation

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Unfair, but funny:


  1. Rodger C said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

    This reminds me of some friends (non-southerners) who made some horrible sassafras tea once because the instructions on the box from Japan said to boil (not steep) for seven minutes.

  2. J Silk said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 6:09 pm

    ha ha, why, I wonder, is the final comment–the only words spoken–in Dutch.

  3. Adrian Morgan said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 6:10 pm

    I translated the following sentence from English to Hindi and back again (the sentence is sourced from my blog):

    Original: "This is not a difference in inherent worth but an accident of history, and in my opinion regrettable."

    Google: "It is a difference in the underlying price, but is not an accident of history, and in my opinion, is regrettable."

    Elan: "Underlying value, but is in an accident of history, and in my opinion is not a difference of regret."

    I already knew that Google reverses the meaning by misplacing the "not"; that's why I was curious to see how another translator would render it. As pure nonsense, it turns out.

    If you were deciding between the two tools, you would also have to consider that Elan has a very conservative limit on the length of the text it will translate. Google therefore wins on practicality.

    The website itself is much more modest, recommending the tool only for the translation of individual words and phrases.

    Elan refers to English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish as General languages, and the rest as Other. An odd choice of words indeed. I thought the claims of superior translation quality might apply only to the General languages (the rest to be understood as being in beta), but the video uses Japanese so that's no excuse.

    Besides, where would the fun be in making it easy?

  4. Lost in translation: an amusing ad | The Eclectic Light Company said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 6:25 pm

    […] to Mark Liberman at Language Log for drawing attention to […]

  5. David Morris said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 8:26 pm

    One of my Facebook friends usually posts in a language other than English. On one occasion, one online translator rendered the caption of a photo as 'Blowjob from daughter'. I tried another, which provided 'Quick kiss from daughter'.

  6. Ray said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 9:00 pm

    clever video, putting words in our mouths!

  7. Janne said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 9:33 pm

    Google Translate is indeed moderately horrible for languages such as Japanese. So I tried a quick real-world test – a short work email about an upcoming meeting – with both Google and Elan. Here's Google:

    "X-san, everyone,

    Seminars, I also Thank you arranged in a schedule that can participate.

    As a result of consultation about the literature that would be helpful of model building in Y teacher, I was sent the following paper. Please by all means use the seminar of preparation and model parameter settings."

    And here's Elan:

    "X, everybody, thank you arrange seminars, I participate in. Consulted about the literature concerning teachers become reference models, following article to us.
    Take a look at using parameters setting model with the preparation of the seminar."

    Different kinds of horrible, mostly. I see no reason to switch from one to the other.

    My own, utterly inexpert, translation would have been:

    "X-san and everybody,

    Thank you for arranging the meeting schedule so that I, too, can participate.

    In response to my question about literature references regarding our model design, Dr. Y sent us the attached paper. Please look it over in time for the seminar, and use it for our model parameter settings."

  8. J. Goard said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 10:58 pm

    First example sentence from a randomly selected Korean vocabulary book:

    친구에게서 돈을 꾸어서 당장 필요한 책을 샀다.
    'I borrowed money from a friend to buy the book I needed right away.'

    Fortuitous homonym in there — 꾸다 (ggu-da) 'dream' or 'borrow' — but an extremely easy sentence nonetheless.

    "Quran money come from friends bought the book now required."

    "Dream of money from a friend and bought a book need right in."

    So Elan gets the wrong homonym, and Google comes up with something ridiculous. Well, ok, let's change it to an unambiguous (and more frequent) word for 'borrow':

    친구에게서 돈을 빌려서 당장 필요한 책을 샀다.

    "Borrow money from a friend immediately bought the necessary books."

    "Borrowing money from a friend and bought the book you need on the spot."

    …and there we go.

    One applies the adverb to 'be necessary', the other to 'buy', but both readings are possible AFAIK. Elan uses a stylistically odd idiom that might get it into trouble sometimes. They're substantially different, and yet the similarity is much greater — both go from very solid to a complete mess with a single verb choice.

  9. JS said,

    November 23, 2015 @ 11:20 pm


    Nanohana , spinach , it boils quickly in hot water . In crunch cut Once boiled , part of the roots is discarded . Sushi of iodine and spinach flyers to rice , mix a sprinkle . We will put in order so that the rice in a three-layer cake type of 18㎝ . On top of the rice , and lay the minced Usuyaki eggs . Salmon that were plated in rose type , also topping avocado and salmon roe that was on the corner cut . In addition super horse hovered fruit tomato .

    Spinach, boiled, boil in water. Crunched under cut if unfortunately we throw away part of the root. Mix spinach, sprinkle with the seasoning mix in the rice. 18 cm cake Pan become three-layer the rice to put in order. Lay a thin omelet dinner on finely chopped. Wrapped in rose-salmon, diced avocado and salmon also topped. Stand tomato in addition to Super delicous.

  10. GH said,

    November 24, 2015 @ 5:33 am

    Hmm, it wouldn't be my first choice, but if Google renders something nonsensical or incomprehensible, it's nice to have a backup.

  11. Nanani said,

    November 24, 2015 @ 3:14 pm

    How about "use neither, hire a real translator if it's at all important"?

  12. JS said,

    November 24, 2015 @ 6:17 pm

    To be fair, that is apparently precisely the surface that Elan provides; they suggest using the automatic translator only for single words or phrases. I'm not sure why they felt it was advantageous not to make this clear in the ad…

  13. Taste the translation | The Proof Angel said,

    November 30, 2015 @ 5:21 am

    […] As this post says, this video is unfair, but funny all the same. See a comparison of two well-known translation services. […]

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