|Gregorio Cortez. A victim of racism and bad translation.|
How important is translation? Gregorio Cortez was accused of stealing a horse. He spoke no English. When asked by a bad translator, "Did you trade for a horse?" he answered, "No", because the words for horse and mare are different. What he was effectively saying in that "no" was, "I didn't trade a horse, I traded a mare." This one distinction led to a manhunt and lost lives.
There are some sites that make the world smaller. I have an Italian pen pal. She speaks no English and I speak no Italian. Through Google Translate, we are able to communicate.
Take a look at this ad and continue reading after you've seen it.
In the spirit of fair play, let us see how Google vs. Elan pans out. This is a German paragraph about a band called the Rattles:
"Im Dezember 1960 wurden die Rattles in Hamburg von Achim Reichel und Herbert Hildebrandt gegründet. Am 3. Februar 1963 gewann die Band einen Wettbewerb im Hamburger Star-Club und wurde daraufhin die erste deutsche Band mit einem Engagement in diesem Club. Im Herbst desselben Jahres nahmen sie ihre erste Single auf. Danach ging die Band für fünf Wochen auf England-Tour mit Bo Diddley, Little Richard und den noch unbekannten Rolling Stones. "
Google says it means:
"In December 1960, the Rattles were founded in Hamburg by Achim Reichel and Herbert Hildebrandt. On 3 February 1963, the band won a contest in the Hamburg Star - Club and then became the first German band with a commitment to this club . In the autumn of the same year they recorded their first single . Then the band went five weeks England tour with Bo Diddley , Little Richard and the Rolling Stones still unknown."
Now, this is how Elan translates it:
"The rattles in Hamburg, Germany by Achim Reichel and Herbert Hildebrandt were founded in December 1960. On February 3, 1963, the band won a contest the star-Club in Hamburg, and became the first German band with a commitment to this club. In the autumn of the same year, they recorded their first single. After that, the band for five weeks on England tour went with Bo Diddley, Little Richard and the unknown Rolling Stones. "
RESULTS: Google did well with the first sentence, kept the date in the same order in the second sentence. The last sentence is very stiff and misses a conjunction between "went" and "five".
Elan's first sentence is basically correct, but clumsy and they did not capitalize the Rattles' name. They get the date in the proper format, but don't capitalize Star-Club and "won a contest the star-Club" makes no sense without an "in" that Google caught. In the third sentence, Elan correctly puts a comma between "year" and "they". The final sentence has the same problem that Google did. The Elan translator also knew enough to put periods in without spaces beforehand.
WINNER: (barely) Google. I would have put it this way:
The Rattles were formed in Hamburg, Germany by Achim Reichel and Herbert Hildebrandt in December of 1960. In February 3, 1963, the band won a contest at Hamburg's Star-Club and became the first German band with a commitment to this club. That autumn, they recorded their first single. After that, they embarked on a five-week tour of England with Bo Diddley, Little Richard and the then-unknown Rolling Stones.
Yes, I changed the wording a bit, but if this were an audio book, which would you rather read?
Let's try Japanese. This is from Cutie Morning Moon's page. Both Google and Elan knew the text I put in was Kanji and did a translation.
Hopefully, you will see the original Japanese below:
ELAN: "In the middle of 72 years, was doing with Hiroshi and Haruo Yuya back. Vodka Collins of Godzilla and future members are working together, and I was.
Mickey Curtis and Monsieur back again doing the morning TV, daytime radio, night do live very busy days were. Then I'm only Monsieur back to do."
GOOGLE: "In the mid of 1972 , back of Yuya along with Hiroshi and Haruo also I was doing . We Godzilla and future members of the vodka Collins had been working together . Mickey Curtis and Monsieur is doing back another of the morning television , daytime radio , night is day busy enough to do a live there were many . Then I began to do only the back of Monsieur ."
Elan gets the date wrong and the first sentence is a mangle. The second sentence is also garbled, as is the third. Google gets the date right, but the first sentence is bad as is the second and third.
I had to go the English version of this page to understand what was going on. This is what I believe it should say:
"In mid-1972, I was backing Hiroshi (Oguchi) as well as Haruo Yuya. [The band] Godzilla and future members of the band Vodka Collins were working together. Mickey Curtis and Monsieur (another band) were working in morning television, daytime radio and between the days and nights there was a lot of live work to be had. I went back to playing with Monsieur."
WINNER: Neither. Google gets a slight nod for a coherent sentence fragment, "...future members of the vodka Collins had been working together."
So, while Elan purports to be a better translator than Google, both have their faults and you cannot beat the human touch. At least not yet, you can't. The Elan ad is funny, but not truthful.