I recently added a “Translation” feature (bottom left corner) to my blog to make it more appealing to non-English speakers.
Now, in the blink of an eye, you can read my posts in English, French, German, Spanish and Russian.
While the translation is a long way from being perfect, it nevertheless makes the text comprehensible. The computer makes short work of the job, but there are problems.
There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect translation, especially when so-called Artificial Intelligence (AI) handles it. An electronic brain is not able (yet) to master the subtle or double meanings of some words.
Traduttore, traditore is a famous Italian expression meaning “Translator, traitor” emphasizing the fact that the translator (human or otherwise) will always “betray” the author and the meaning of the original text.
For instance, a few days ago I wrote a little piece called “Extreme cleavage.” Midway through the text, you can find the following paragraph:
“A kamikaze décolleté, like a miniskirt or yoga pants, is not for everybody. To pull such a stunt successfully, you need the right equipment and the right garment.”
Imagine my surprise (and my embarrassment) when the computer handed me with the following French translation:
Un décolleté Kamikaze, comme un pantalon de yoga ou minijupe, ne sont pas pour tout le monde. Pour tirer un coup avec succès, vous avez besoin du bon équipement et le vêtement droit.
In case you did not know, “tirer un coup” is a crude French slang expression meaning “to f**k.” So, if I retranslated this text into English, it would say something like “To f**k successfully, you need the right equipment…”
Traduttore, traditore !
“A major difficulty in translation is that a word in one language seldom has a precise equivalent in another one.”— Arthur Schopenhauer
A translation app is useful but not perfect and should thus be handled with caution. Whenever you use it, be ready to beat a hasty retreat if you put your foot in your mouth.
“Translation is like a woman: if she is faithful, she is not beautiful; if she is beautiful, she is not faithful.”— Russian Proverb