Saturday, August 2, 2008

iGoogle: Mistranslating the World One Phrase at a Time

I happened to be looking for an online dictionary when I came across the iGoogle service which offers to translate entire texts. Out of curiosity, I typed in "que será, será" - quite literally "what will be will be." The offered translation was "this match will be the decider." Can you imagine Doris Day singing that? Of course I decided to try more, so I typed in "no me digas," which means "don't tell me." The response was "I do not say." well, that's for sure! Finally, I put in "dímelo" which means "tell me (it)." The response was "give it to me straight"! I don't know whether this website is a joke on me, or on Google. (Actually, it seems to rely on translations already available on the web, since it got the Pledge of Alleiance flawlessly, when I don't even think most Enlish speakers could paraphrase it in their native tonggue.) I am reminded of the Soviet translation of Jesus's famouis "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" which is rendered in Russian translated to English as "the liquor is agreeable, but the meat is decrepit." Ah, well...

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