Computer assisted translation has left us poor humans in the dust, I admit that, but must they clump us Americans with a British English that we have tried to segregate ourselves from for 250 years?
If we can survive a Great Vowel Shift, why be forced to sustain this plethora of British English spelling that just plain sucks to an American audience. (disclaimer: the word “sucks” is appropriate to American audiences. Not sure about its taboo or whether its understood or not to other English speaking audiences.)
My educated point is: English is not what is generally understood by an “English audience”. Neither is Arabic, French, Chinese, or even Dutch.
My further educated point is: “Don’t hate, nationally differentiate.”
Translation software like Google Translate makes it very clear that there ca be only one linear translation for anything. A “cat” is a “cat” in a computer mind… never mind that it can be used to refer to people, such as in the sentence “He’s a sly cat.”
Antiquated terms like “yaahoo” and “frau” often get lost in the archive abiss, only to pop up when you least expect them to translate endearing nicknames in other languages, regardless of the fact that they haven’t been used in centuries. (The modern equivalent of course being something like “dude” or “girl”.)
But this is only a mere technicality. The real concern arises when an expletive is used to refer to a person of higher authority; when the given name “Earl” also happens to be the word for “porn” in Japanese. Urban legends of presidents calling themselves jelly doughnuts could only be more believable if Google Translate had been around for JFK to use it in the 1960s. Instead we have Japanese CEOs referring to CitiBank as a “shi*ty banku.”
Forget being misleading and forget being argumentative. What happens when a computer translated document becomes downright offensive, even by American standards? It’s hilarious to everyone but the person trying to impress.
In International Business, it’s on par with a lawyer messing up a contract. Those companies that outsource to automated computer translation software are stuck with the consequences.
Well, I got to admit… the other day I cheated. Of course, I didn’t think it to be cheating at the time, until Google Translate once again made me look like an idiot. I wanted to translate in a forum the Arabic term for “trashing out”, a common term that real estate investors use in the US to mean clearing out of everything in a foreclosed property.
Simply typing in “get rid of what is left behind” as a contribution through the computer translator however proved problematic after I posted. I thought I was being clever by differentiating between what is considered “garbage” and what is “left behind”, which in the case of trashing out can include furniture or even pets.
My reward was a nasty response from an Arabic native speaker, which said something similar to “You’re an idiot. ‘Left’ as opposite to “right” is not the same as “Left” as ‘abandon’.” She then suggested that I used computer assisted translation (scandalous!) and just basically called me out as the worst translator that ever lived.
Take my advice and check your homographs by hand before taking the fall for a computer.
The American English term “spam” has a negative connotation on two levels. It was originally the name for a disgusting potted meat, but now has come to be the common term for junk e-mail. I tried translating the word “spam” on Google Translate, and it gave me the Arabic equivalent of neither. It merely gave me a word that means “annoying”. Should this be the case, the term “Google Translate” could be translated as “annoying” as well. My point is, Terms for technologies is an entirely new dictionary that computer assisted translation has increasing trouble with.
A great example of this is “green energy”. Any native English speaker would know this means “clean” or “renewable” energy. Believe it or not, “green energy” is an idiom. Anyone who regularly has heard this term or used it in everyday speech has actually used the term “green energy” interchangibly with the term “renewable energy” without even realizing it. It is part of the human speech process that makes us human. A computer, thankfully, does not have this same capacity… yet. Google Translate cannot make this jump, either as a term standing alone or in context in a sentence. Translators rely on meanings of words and even entire sentences in order to relay that same meaning into sounds and symbols of a target language. This is the reason that Google Translate and other computer translation like it cannot be guaranteed accurate. It took the word “internet” 20 years for it to be a common term in the US, even though the technology had been a very present part of our society, being used by credit card machines and ATMs for decades prior.
Try this on for size. The next time you are on Google Translate, try translating “Green Energy” into any language that you are familiar with. Energia Verde, طاقة خضرا؛ “Taaqah KhDraa”, Зеленая энергия… these all mean literally “Green Energy”, don’t they? The only problem is, we are talking about Clean, Renewable Energy, not green eggs and ham. It may be good for a laugh, but hardly understood by a target audience.
If you haven’t been following, this morning Facebook continuously hyped the importance of communicating with others easily and in the “most seamless way possible” at their San Francisco press conference. And just now, Twitter’s new blog post has yet more feature updates to add to its repertoire.
“Trending Topics,” the feature located on the lower-right side of the Twitter interface that shows the most tweeted words and phrases in particular world cities and countries, “is in high demand from folks in cities that aren’t yet on the list,” says the company’s blog post. “So today, we’re expanding local trends to include 13 new countries and 6 new cities. These new locations include some of our fastest growing markets. More cities and countries to come.”
The new countries include Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, Turkey and Venezuela. Amongst the new cities to be found are Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Rio De Janeiro, Sydney and Toronto.