Sunday, 15 March 2009

Babelfish Attacks Again



Now look, I’ve warned you before, don’t trust Babelfish! It’s the bluntest of blunt instruments. You might as well play tiddly-winks with a mallet or pick your teeth with a cricket bat. Someone in Athens came across the previous post and Babelfished it into sort-of-Greek. The original read:

When I was in the fourth form, an English teacher with a knack for laddish talk characterised Keats to us as ‘airy-fairy and a bit of a pouf’. Shortly thereafter, a teacher who definitely did not have the knack for passing as one of the lads was ascending B staircase, followed by members of my form who were chanting sotto but audibly:

Airy-fairy, bit of a pouf…
Airy-fairy, bit of a pouf…
Airy-fairy, bit of a pouf…


Babelfished, the paragraph looks like this:

Όταν ήμουν στην τέταρτη μορφή, μια αγγλική δάσκαλο με ένα κόλπο για laddish μιλάμε Keats μας χαρακτηρίζεται ως «ευάερο-νεράιδα και λίγο ένα πουφ μαξιλάρι. Λίγο αργότερα, ένας καθηγητής που σίγουρα δεν είχε την ευχέρεια για να περάσουν ως ένα από τα παλικάρια ήταν αύξουσα Β σκάλα, που ακολουθείται από τα μέλη της εκλογικής μου μορφή που ψαλμωδία SOTTO αλλά ακουστικό:

Ευάερο-νεράιδα, λίγο μιας πουφ μαξιλάρι ...
Ευάερο-νεράιδα, λίγο μιας πουφ μαξιλάρι ...
Ευάερο-νεράιδα, λίγο μιας πουφ μαξιλάρι ...

And could be translated like this:

'When I was in the fourth shape, an English teacher with a trick for laddish we said Keats to us is characterised as ‘well-ventilated fairy and a little of a pouf cushion.’ A little later, a teacher who certainly did not have the facility for them to pass as one of the fine young men was increasing B staircase, which is followed by the members of my electoral shape who chanting sotto but earphone:

Well-ventilated fairy and a little of a pouf cushion...
Well-ventilated fairy and a little of a pouf cushion...
Well-ventilated fairy and a little of a pouf cushion... '

Heaven knows what that poor reader imagined the post was about.

Once, when I had nothing better to do, I spent a while answering questions on the language section of Yahoo Answers. It was amazing, and scary, to see the number of whacky Babelfish translations offered in all seriousness to those who had asked for translations from foreign languages into English. Did the answerers actually read the crap the programme produced? They can't have. Some of them were not native speakers of English, but most were. Do we now have kids so unpractised in reading and writing that they cannot tell if a passage supposedly in their own language makes sense or not?

2 comments:

Shahrazad said...

This is a good post.... youre making me want to change fields..Im thinking of of becoming a teacher of English..have no idea where to start .Thanks a lot for such an interesting blog.
Salamat

Vilges Suola said...

Thank you very much! If you want to become an English teacher google 'CELTA' and see if there are any courses available in Libya. Is there a British Council in Tripoli? You could contact them and see what they can do for you.

Steve

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