Lost Something in the Translation

I quite often play with translation software and have enough of a rudimentary grasp of languages to know that machine translations will only give you the gist of the text and not the original feel and depth that the author conveyed in their native tongue.

The authors of the Systran translation software probably never intended their program to be subject to an electronic version of ‘Chinese Whispers’. But Carl Tashian had other ideas, and created a bridging application with Babelfish that will translate an English phrase back and forth between multiple different languages. The resulting half-English, half-foreign, and totally non sequitur response bears almost no resemblance to the original.

I ran a paragraph of text through Lost in Translation which shunted it from English to Japanese to English to Chinese to English to Korean to English to French to English to German and back to English. The result is a surreal chunk of prose that looks alarmingly like William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch:

Regarding one this danger of the evil of the method of time vainly, which sleeps her, and moving of the situation of the momentary condition, which wakes up inward inward, it is at the same time broad and it had the difficulty, which hoped it. Regarding its thing the saw of this, but the merry direction of the situation was it it. It followed this hotel in the danger and all the same which the degree, which eat is, that those surpasses a warranty, inward multi of London, which is that, of this place and of the method is, which is not probably everything, for which profit and the loss, it to write which everything is not it did not criticise. But of this place however of it was believed and he was not.

Original text before babelisation:

The man’s dreams were troubled as he floated in that transition state between sleeping and waking. He had the feeling that he was being watched, but that was ridiculous. Nobody knew he was in London, the security in this hotel was beyond reproach and there was no way that anybody could have gotten in without him knowing. But the feeling was still there none the less.

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