Sunday, December 27, 2009

Literally Lost in Translation

I love the Japanese language. It's beautiful, lyrical, challenging, and sometimes really funny. When I read Japanese text, I always try to translate it myself and look words up in my dictionary. However, sometimes that's too difficult and time consuming, so I copy and paste online text into an Internet translator such as Babel fish. The results of literal translations are often hilarious. 


Here's one from the website for Go! Go! Curry!, my favorite Japanese fast food place in New York (and Tokyo). The site has descriptions of the participants in the Japanese curry restaurant's eating championship. Below is the Japanese text for the winner, Joseph Menchetti from Connecticut. 


ジョーが初めてイーティングスタントを始めたのは、小学校6年生の頃。他の子供達が嫌いな食べ物、ベイクドビーンズ16人前、グリーンビーンのサラダ12人前などを食べつくし、その当時から大食いだった。
ジョーが初めてコンテストで優勝したのは、1990年ニュージャージー州で開催されたドミノピザのコンテスト。その後、ネイサンズ・ホットドッグ大会、チキンウィングの大食い大会、バーベキューの大食い大会等に出場。数々の大会で優勝しているプロの大食い選手。
ニックネームはジェントルマン・ジョー。



The website has the English translation, but we thought it would be funny to see how Babel fish would translate it. Imagine Orson Welles reading this in his most pretentious voice. If you haven't thought about Welles in years – or you're too young to remember him – here's a YouTube reminder:





Now back to our translation courtesy of Bable fish (read in Orson's voice):


"As for the jaw for the first time beginning [iteingusutanto], small school 6th grade time. You ate the food, [beikudobinzu] 16 public and the salad 12 public etc of the green bean the other children dislike and exhausted, it was gluttony from that time. As for the jaw winning for the first time in the contest, the contest of the domino pizza which is held in 1990 New Jersey state. After that, you participate in the [neisanzu] hot dog conference, the gluttonous conference of the chicken wing and the gluttonous conference etc of barbecue. The professional gluttonous player who has won in the numerous conference. As for nickname gentleman jaw."


Wow. That's really bad. But funny. If you want to have chuckles with language, translate huge blocks of text with Babelfish, otherwise just use it for single words or simple phrases. If you're serious about having something translated from Japanese into English – or the other way around – talk to my friend Stacy. She does it for a living. 

2 comments:

Marc said...

This post made me realize that just about anything sounds better when you imagine Orson Welles reading it!

shrinecastle said...

How true, even if it's about gluttony!