Monthly Archives: December 2014

Language translation – it’s all gobbledegook, or is that goobledygook?

I came across an interesting article the other day, which listed some of the most taxing words for translators from across the world. There were some real beauties, such as ‘Jayus’, which is an Indonesian word that means the bafflement/bemusement that occurs when someone tells a joke so badly that you laugh at its awkwardness. I’m not sure if this applies just to the manner of telling jokes or the awfulness of the joke itself. If the latter, then surely one of the English equivalents is ‘shaggy dog story’ – and I’ve no idea how we would translate that into foreign languages! Perhaps, one day, we’ll ask a range of our translators to have a go at unusual English phrases and see what they come up with!

Other words that defy the translators include ‘tartle’, which I admit I hadn’t heard of, despite it being a Scots word. Apparently it signifies that awkward moment (awkwardness seeming to be a common factor in all these awkward to translate words!) when you introduce someone but forget their name.

However, the one word that seems to be at the top of the hit parade (as you can see, I’m peppering this blog with lots of idioms, just in case anyone should fancy translating it!), is ‘gobbledegook’. Except that in the article I read it is written as ‘gobblydegook’. Upon investigation (i.e. I looked up a few online dictionaries), it appears that either spelling is valid. That will confuse translators even further no doubt.

The meaning of gobbledegook is, of course, cliché-filled/jargon-filled language that by its very nature serves to obfuscate rather than clarify the matter in hand – a bit like this sentence. Politics and, especially, businesses are prone to gobbledegook, which, given that they are two of the areas where translation and interpretation is most needed, makes the job of our translators even more difficult. Still, we like a challenge!

David Orr, Director, Global Connects

 

 

Language translation – it’s all gobbledegook, or is that goobledygook?

I came across an interesting article the other day, which listed some of the most taxing words for translators from across the world. There were some real beauties, such as ‘Jayus’, which is an Indonesian word that means the bafflement/bemusement that occurs when someone tells a joke so badly that you laugh at its awkwardness. I’m not sure if this applies just to the manner of telling jokes or the awfulness of the joke itself. If the latter, then surely one of the English equivalents is ‘shaggy dog story’ – and I’ve no idea how we would translate that into foreign languages! Perhaps, one day, we’ll ask a range of our translators to have a go at unusual English phrases and see what they come up with!

Other words that defy the translators include ‘tartle’, which I admit I hadn’t heard of, despite it being a Scots word. Apparently it signifies that awkward moment (awkwardness seeming to be a common factor in all these awkward to translate words!) when you introduce someone but forget their name.

However, the one word that seems to be at the top of the hit parade (as you can see, I’m peppering this blog with lots of idioms, just in case anyone should fancy translating it!), is ‘gobbledegook’. Except that in the article I read it is written as ‘gobblydegook’. Upon investigation (i.e. I looked up a few online dictionaries), it appears that either spelling is valid. That will confuse translators even further no doubt.

The meaning of gobbledegook is, of course, cliché-filled/jargon-filled language that by its very nature serves to obfuscate rather than clarify the matter in hand – a bit like this sentence. Politics and, especially, businesses are prone to gobbledegook, which, given that they are two of the areas where translation and interpretation is most needed, makes the job of our translators even more difficult. Still, we like a challenge!

David Orr, Director, Global Connects

Machine translation is ‘vastly overrated’ (Part II)

This is our second blog, based on a couple of letters we came across in the Daily Telegraph. One of their correspondents noted that machine translation software systems “cannot differentiate between the imperfect tense (“I was looking”), the perfect tense (“I have looked”) and the preterite (“I looked”). They consistently fail to understand homonyms – for instance, perché in Italian means “why” as well as “because. Neither do they always understand nuance: for example, in Italian, speakers include personal pronouns with verbs only for clarity or emphasis.”

I decided to pursue this a bit further. Spanishdict, which is a very commonly used website used for translation by students at our sister School, Lorca Spanish, offers three options with each translation. I began with Google’s translation of the paragraph at the start of the last blog. This, in Spanish, is:

Según el Daily Telegraph, o más concretamente su sección de cartas, la traducción automática es de hecho algo para ser cautos. Ahora, antes de todos por ahí que vende / ofrece software de traducción (Google por ejemplo) salta sobre su / su caballo alto, aquí es una traducción de este párrafo por una máquina (el ya mencionado Google, de hecho).

Spanishdict offers the following three versions :

According to the Daily Telegraph, or more specifically its section of letters, machine translation is indeed something to be cautious. Now, before everyone out there that sells / provides software translation (Google for example) jumps on its / his high horse, here is a translation of this paragraph by a machine (the aforementioned Google, in fact).

According to the Daily Telegraph, or more specifically its section of letters, automatic translation is in fact something to be cautious. Now, before all that sells / offers translation software (Google, for example) jumps on his / her horse high, here is a translation of this paragraph by a machine (the already mentioned Google, in fact).

According to Daily Telegraph, or more specifically its section of letters, the machine translation is really a little to be cautious. Now, before all round there that it sells / it offers translation software (Google for example) it jumps on its / its high horse, here it is a translation of this paragraph for a machine (the already mentioned Google, in fact).

The translations get progressively poorer. The first is just about OK, but after that there are clearly problems.

Moral? You get what you pay for. And a good human translator, able to interpret nuance and tense, will always be better than a machine.

David Orr, Director, Global Connects

 

Machine translation is ‘vastly overrated’ (Part I)

According to the Daily Telegraph, or more specifically its letters page, machine translation is indeed something to be wary of. Now before everyone out there who sells/provides translation software (Google for example) jumps on his/her high horse, here is a translation of this paragraph by a machine (the aforementioned Google in fact).

However, just for fun, I asked Google to translate this English into English, and it got a bit confused…

“According To the Daily Telegraph, STI or more letters page Specifically, machine translation is indeed something to be wary of. Now before everyone out there sells WHO / Provides translation software (Google for example) jumps on his / her high horse, here is a translation of esta paragraph by a machine (the Aforementioned Google in fact).”

Leaving aside the unfortunate fact that we seem to have acquired a sexually transmitted infection in the process of translation, I then asked Google to translate the paragraph into Spanish. My knowledge of Spanish is such that I know it was pretty accurate, which is fine, but I then asked Google to translate this same Spanish back into English. This time it came up with,

“According to the Daily Telegraph, or more specifically section of cards, automatic translation is indeed something to be cautious. Now before everyone out there selling / offering translation software (eg Google) jumps on his / her high horse, here is a translation of this paragraph by a machine (the aforementioned Google, in fact).”

Now Google is free, so caveat emptor, to use an old foreign language favourite of mine. However, another favourite saying of mine is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. And whether or not you use free translation software or a more expensive piece of kit, there are almost always problems, and the result, of course, does need to be checked – preferably by a real-life human being!
(to be continued)

David Orr, Director, Global Connects.