22 July 2010

Fun with Google Translate

games with words suggests the following game with Google's translation tool:
Idea: type in sentence in English. The site then queries Google Translator, translating into Japanese and then back again until it reaches "equilibrium," where the sentence you get out is the sentence you put in. Some sentences just never converge. Ten points to whoever finds the most interesting non-convergence.
This seemed like a golden opportunity to avoid productive work, so naturally I jumped at the chance.

I didn't actually follow the rules (I used languages other than Japanese), and I haven't yet found any examples of non-convergence (so no 10 points for me).

But here are my results. Naturally the first thing that came to mind to use was the opening sentence of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, one of the most famous opening lines in all of English literature:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
All of my experiments converged quickly, within two to three rounds:

Hungarian (chosen on personal historical grounds)
 It is a generally accepted truth that a man possession of good fortune, I have a wife.
Czech
It is widely acknowledged truth that the only man in own good fortune, must be the lack of a wife.
Arabic
It is universally recognized fact that one man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. 
 Russian
It is unanimously recognized that one person possession of good fortune, must be the absence of his wife.
[Which rather changes the sense .... and makes an interesting contrast with the Hungarian]
  Hebrew
Is truth universally acknowledged that a man possession of good fortune, must be like for his wife.
 Yiddish (which for some reason ended up with a Yiddish accent)
It is a true universalli akknovledged that a single person in possession of a good fortune, must its in need of a woman.
And for the grand finale, I took the phrase through the sequence English-Hungarian-Czech-Arabic-Russian-Hebrew-English (I omitted Yiddish because I didn't want the added accent):
It is the truth about this man, possession of happiness, be a woman.
 And that is the end of my scientific research for the day.

[UPDATE: the comments thread on the original post at games with words has lots of interesting examples (all using the original Japanese version of the game), including Chomsky's "colorless green ideas sleep furiously," the final sentence of On the Origin of Species, and the opening sentence of Finnegans Wake, as well as my own modest contribution, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (the subject, as you old-timers will know, of a famous old joke/anecdote about machine translation).
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