So, if you click here, you end up at something called Babelfish.
Babelfish is this translation tool. You input words in a certain language. It outputs them in a wide variety of other languages.
My geekiness, curioisty, and poetic nature all conspired. (Maybe these are all the same thing.)
I was curious how good it was. Among the practical problems, translating is as much an art as a science. There are so many words which don’t have a direct equivalent. Particularly abstract ones.
If I was fluent in any language it would be fairly easy to check this. Much to my discredit, I am monolingual. I have a brain like a black whole for languages. It occured to me, though, that I might begin with a certain phrase, have the site do it’s work, and then take that phrase, translate it into a third language, and then translate this back into English.
Presumably any errors picked up along the way wouldn’t be corrected, with each generation mistranslations would only grow. For this reason, it’s a pretty big challenge.
It occured to me that the things that result might end up being kind-of interesting in their own right. I have this love for what Sting (in the song “Shape of my heart”) Called “the aesthetics of chance”. I decided I’d start with something well known, and full of abstractions. Perhaps because Memorial Day is only a few days ago, I settled on The Pledge of Allegience.
I took it line by line. I subjected each to translations in 3 languages before translating it back into English. This is what I ended up with:
I connect loyally ; for that; S flag.
And in republic for which it is
A nation under God
Indivisible correctly for everyone
Considering the difficulty of the challenge, I’d say that’s actually pretty good fidelity to the original.
My next projects:
Choose a poem, perhaps something by Frost, and run it through this process.
Take a non-English translation of the bible and use babel fish to translate it, and compare to the English translation of the bible.
Choose some of my own writing, and run it through and see what happens.
I’d like to invite you to post any cool things you discover while playing around with this rather cool little thing.