Lost In Translation

Translation Widget iconI’ve been playing with the “Translation” widget in Tiger’s Dashboard, which uses SYSTRAN technology to translate between a number of different languages.

One of the most interesting things about the widget is that it has a button which can reverse the direction of the translation at any given moment. In other words, if I type an English phrase in and convert it to Japanese, with a single click of the button, I can convert that Japanese phrase back to English.

This is probably most useful when you’re having a conversation with someone and you need to use this widget as a translator, but as anyone who witnessed the All Your Base phenomenon knows, mistranslation can be really fun, and re-translating text can be fertile ground for some really funny mental images.

So I decided to throw a phrase at the widget and run it through the translator a few times to see what came out. I started simple with, “When I wake up in the morning, I drink Pepsi.” (That’s true, by the way.) The translation went through Japanese and came back “When I awake during morning, I drink Pepsi-Cola.” Okay, pretty close. I ran it through a few more times and got these:

  • When I become aware between morning, I drink the Pepsi-Cola cola
  • When I become aware in Asama, I drink the cola of the Pepsi-Cola cola
  • When I become aware with Asama, I drink the cola of the cola of the Pepsi-Cola cola

At this point it started to sound like a camp song, sung by enthusiastic teenagers who are exited to be up past 11pm, sitting around a fire pit in the woods. Eventually it became, “When the cola of the cola of the cola of the cola of Asama was drunk, at the point where cola I of the cola of the cola of the cola of my Pepsi-Cola cola becomes aware the point.” I think somewhere in there the cola became sentient, which is pretty exciting. Perhaps this is why Japan is so far ahead of us in robotics! Let’s not even ask why I’m waking up with Asama. I hardly even know Asama! And as if that’s not bad enough, Asama is apparently inebriated.

So for you Tiger users, I’d like you to pick a phrase and a “filter language” (the true mistranslation lovers will always choose Japanese, but you’re free to do as you like) and run your phrase through a few times. Let’s see your progressions in the comments!

7 Comments

  1. Posted July 27, 2005 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    “Feel my skills, donkey donkey donkey, donkey donkey!”

    Priceless.

    PS: Full feeds. ;P

  2. Posted July 27, 2005 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Your full feeds are coming, Ramon! Have no fear.

    Here’s a fun one, with Japanese again. It starts “I drove to Los Angeles to see a rock concert last Saturday”.

    – I operated the lock concert to Los Angeles in order last Saturday to see
    – I last Saturday operated the lock concert in order in sequence to see in Los Angeles
    – As for I in order to see in Los Angeles last Saturday the lock concert was operated to sequence in sequence
    – In order to see in Los Angeles in regard to I last Saturday the lock concert operated in order to array into sequence

    Lock concert?!? What, does this translation have a strong Japanese accent, too? It starts to sound obsessive-compulsive near the end there.

  3. Neal
    Posted July 27, 2005 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    I love it when Apple comes up with something useful that I can take advantage of and make my life better. Heh. This we’ll be worth a few laughs for sure.

    PS- Joshua, if only this could be done verbally. “Don’t be dull, you twit.”
    “You twit that are dull, don’t be dull.”
    …or something.

  4. Posted July 27, 2005 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    0. The squirrels will soon take over the world.
    1. The lith takes over the world eventually.
    2. Lith takes over the world after all. (the previous japanese version had “Lith” raw, so apparently that’s a one-way translation)

    After step 2 it starts repeating, which I think is interesting. That phrase has a one-to-one translation in Japanese (albeit the Japanese version doesn’t have a translation for the word “lith”).

  5. Dave
    Posted August 1, 2005 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Josh, Pepsi is not part of a balanced breakfast.

  6. MOM
    Posted August 3, 2005 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I used my translator to Chinese to say “Meet me tomorrow for burgers at noon.”
    After two flips it became, “Noon will meet me for to get gentry Hamburg will be tomorrow.”
    Korean became, “The tomorrow when it means the danger will carry the hamburger inside it noon conference.”
    That one sounded like “terrorist code”!

  7. Posted August 3, 2005 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Whoa! Where’d the “danger” come from? Maybe it knows something about hamburgers that we don’t!