Sunday, April 24, 2022

La Pistola Humeante

A dishonest mistake


  1. I always tell my students to be really, really careful when using translator services. One time, a student could not remember a certain word he wanted to use, and used a translator. However, he could not find a direct translation from his mothertongue to Dutch, so he went through English first. The result was an essay in which the student explained that his neighbour had a lot of butts on his farm. (hint: donkey -> a** -> butt)

    1. There is even the german phrase (I think the dutch invented it, considering there are many dutch links to that on google), designed specifically for translation machines such as google translate, "Meine Nachbarin hat Kohlmeisen, aber was macht dein Hahn auf meinem Esel" (My (female) neighbor has parus major birds but what does your rooster do on my donkey).

  2. Whenever I need a word or phrase for my fiction writing, I first go "English to (for example) Spanish". Then I copy the supplied Spanish word and reopen the translator and choose "Spanish to English". Many a time that uncovers a difference of vocabulary opinion! If I'm feeling really diligent, I open an entirely different translator and paste that Spanish word for translation. Sometimes I go as far as "best of three" concurrence.

  3. I was once an assistant teacher for a English class of Korean middle schoolers. I had given the students a list of English vocabulary words, and each student was supposed to write a sentence with each word. While grading the sentences, I discovered that one of the students was using an online translator. I discovered this because the student had accidentally separated the word "defendant" into "defen" and "dant". When she put those two "words" into her translator, it got confused. Instead of giving her a sentence in English, it gave her a sentence in - Welsh. And she wrote it down on her paper, not realizing that it wasn't English.

  4. I am not a translator but I often have to translate technical words from English to French or frome French to English. A good method for specific words is to use Wikipedia by looking for the article in other languagues and the translation is often very relevant. It would have been useful for avoiding the "donkey->butt" translation of the first comment!