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Post details: Fishy Babel

Fishy Babel

Not all Machine Translation software is created equal. Today, I fed a few fairly simple common sentences to Google (translate.google.com) and Yahoo! (babelfish.yahoo.com) to see how they'd fare. First, I translated them into a language X and then back into English for comparison. Here are the results.

English originals:

1. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.
2. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
3. Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
4. The mouse that has but one hole is quickly taken.
5. Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.

Via Portuguese:

1g. It contains your chickens before they're hatched.
1y. Don't counting of its hens before they shocked reverse speed.

2g. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
2y. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

3g. Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
3y. To learn is a treasure that follows its proprietor in all part.

4g. The mouse that has a hole, but is quickly taken.
4y. The rat that has but a puncture is taken quickly.

5g. Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.
5y. The concern of frequent to a small thing a great shade.

Via Greek:

1g. Do not count your chickens before they're hatched.
1y. Don't the measure your chickens before that is hatched.

2g. In the land of the blind, one-eyed man is king.
2y. In the ground of blind, the one-eye individual is king.

3g. Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
3y. The learning is a treasure that will follow the householder everywhere.

4g. The mouse has only one hole obtained quickly.
4y. The mouse that they have but a hole is taken fast.

5g. Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.
5y. The concern gives often in a small thing a big shade.

Yahoo's Babel Fish is obviously still swimming in some pretty murky semantic waters. On the whole, Google produced much cleaner results even for some exotic languages that Yahoo didn't even list. Most of the sentences were translated correctly, with few minor exceptions.

1g. Do not count your chickens before they are shredded. (Catalan)
2g. Impaired vision, one eye is king in the land. (Japanese)
3g. Learning is a tax that follows its own everywhere (Norwegian)
4g. The mouse that has a hole, but it is quickly adopted (Catalan)
5g. Often worried about a little big balloon (Vietnamese)

Obviously, languages from the far away branches of the linguistic evolutionary tree are more difficult to translate, as can be seen in these examples from Hindi.

1g. Before they are born, do not count your chickens.
2g. Blind, the one person in the land of the eye is king.
3g. Learning that will follow its owner is a treasure everywhere.
4g. But is that a hole is quickly taken from the mouse.
5g. One concern often a small thing makes a big shadow.

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