Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Talking the Language of Chocolate

The origins of the Babel Fish are in the Douglas Adams book "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" (more on that below). Full marks are due to Yahoo for picking this idea up in the language translation program, however language translation programs are less than perfect. The standard test is to take a phrase in English, translate it to another language and translate it back to English to see how good the process is. Your reviewer tried this with the phrase
I like my hot chocolate rich and dark
The Chinese translation was pretty close:
I like my hot chocolate being rich and being dark
The Dutch and German translations got a bit off the mark:
I love my hot chocolate realms and dark (Dutch)
I like my realms and darkness of the hot chocolate (German)
The French and Italian translation had a bit of trouble getting back into English
J' love my rich person and darkness of hot chocolate (French)
Gradico my rich and dusks of the warm chocolate (Italian)
Korean and Japanese seem to be fixated on the man rather than the chocolate:
I like my hot chocolate rich man and darkness (Korean)
I like the rich person and the darkness of my cocoa (Japanese)
Some other nationalities do not fare much better:
I like the boiling hot riches and my dark of chocolate (Greek)
I have taste of my rich and darkness of the hot chocolate (Spanish)
I love my rich and the darkness of the hot chocolate (Russian)
I my rich blackness and taste of the hot chocolate (Portugese)
Lastly I thought I would translate from English to Dutch to French to Greek and back to English with the following result:
I keep the boiling hot kingdoms of my chocolate and dark

I refered to Wikipedia for the following:

The Babel Fish is small, yellow, leech-like, and is a universal translator which simultaneously translates from one spoken language to another. When inserted into the ear, its nutrition processes convert sound waves into brain waves, neatly crossing the language divide between any species you should happen to meet whilst travelling in space. Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation. Arthur Dent, a surviving Earthling, commented only 'Eurgh!' when first inserting the fish into his ear canal. It did, however, enable him to understand Vogon Poetry - not necessarily a good thing. The book points out that the Babel Fish could not possibly have developed naturally, and therefore proves the existence of God as its creator. However, as Man points out, God needs faith to exist, and this proof dispels the need for faith, therefore causing God to vanish "in a puff of logic".

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