Machine translation has been in the news lately, so I thought it might be interesting to conduct an experiment. I've chosen four different Chinese texts (excerpts from a novel, a film and two newspaper interviews), translated them into English with Google Translate, and added my English translations (three of which have appeared on Paper Republic in the past year). I'm sure most of the translators in our forum have their own machine-translation stories...hope you'll share. That's not to say that machine translation is pointless: ten years from now, we will be taking this a lot more seriously. But in the meantime, we might as well have our bit of fun.
(1) a novel - Yan Lianke, Dream of Ding Village (original translation stub on my translator bio)
Human translation: The sixth thing was that if you got it, you died. AIDS was a new and incurable disease, and no amount of money could save you. But the sickness had only just begun. That was the seventh thing. The real explosion wouldn't come until next year, or the year after next. That's when people would start dying like sparrows, or moths, or ants. Right now they were dying like dogs, and everyone knows that in this world, people care a lot more about dogs than they do about sparrows, moths or ants.
Google translation: With this disease Betrader 6 is dead, is a human world, a new fatal disease, how much money you have unhealed governance. 7 is that the disease is actually just beginning, the outbreak until next year, the year after it arrived. At that time, only the dead person as dead sparrow-like, moth-like, ant-like. Like a dead person is now dead dogs. Dog in the world than the moths, the game is much more valuable.
(2) film dialogue - Robin Weng (Weng Shouming), Fujian Blue
Chinese: 去出国挺危险的，我前几年去台湾，从平潭东澳过去，一般平潭仔去台湾都是从东澳偷渡过去，不少人没上岸就被抓起来，在“大陆人民宜兰处理中心” 关个一年半载再遣返。那里的管教员最坏,日本的要好一点……捷克的最人性化，每星期六还放三级片给我们看。
Human translation: Going abroad is risky. A few years ago I snuck into Taiwan, went across the straits at Pingtan. That's how the locals stow away. A lot get caught before they reach shore. I spent a year and a half in lockup, and then I got deported. Taiwanese guards are the worst. The Japanese are better, but the Czechs are the most humane. Every Saturday, they let us watch porn.
Google translation: Quite dangerous to go abroad, I go to Taiwan a few years ago, from Pingtan eastern Australia in the past, the general Pingtan Aberdeen to go to Taiwan are illegal immigrants from the East Australia in the past, many people were arrested and did not come ashore in the "dealing with people on the mainland Ilan center "off a year or so and then return. Corrections where the worst of Japan a little better ... ... the Czech Republic the most humane, also released three films every Saturday to show us.
(3) news interview - Han Han on the role of the public intellectual (see PR archive)
Human translation: "Sometimes being a public intellectual is a lot like being a public toilet. Anyone can stop by and take a piss for free, and they don't have to clean up afterward. If you try to charge them 50 cents for toilet paper, they'll bitch about it and start kicking at your walls. But a city's got to have public toilets, otherwise people just crap in the streets. It's a pretty pathetic role sometimes, but if everyone in the city, even those who have their own bathrooms at home, comes to take a dump in the public toilet, well then... maybe there's some hope for this society yet."
Google translation: "Public intellectuals and public toilets are sometimes the same, for people to temporary vent, vent cleaning is not finished, and must be free, if you received fifty cents toilet paper costs have to kick your feet on the wall. If there are no public toilets of a city, then a lot of people can only shit in the streets of the. Therefore, this role is very sad sometimes. However, if the entire city of people, even a toilet at home who came to this public toilet stool, then the society may be optimistic."
(4) news interview - Wu Wei, deputy director of the State Council Information Office/head of China Books International (see PR archive)
Human translation: "Jia Pingwa's books contain a lot of Shaanxi dialect that we Mandarin-speakers don't understand, dialect that foreigners are even less likely to understand. Another example is Yan Lianke's Shouhuo [The Living/The Joy of Living]. The translation rights were sold in 2004, but the book has yet to appear in translation. The reason is that they can't translate it - they just don't understand the dialect."
Google translation: Jia Pingwa works, there are a lot of Shaanxi dialect, we say that people who do not speak Mandarin, foreigners even more comprehension. Yan Lianke another example of "subject to live" in 2004, the copyright had sold out, and it has not translated. Why ah, other people will not turn, do not understand your dialect.