Fun_People Archive
15 Dec
Vai the pole its head in a pig!

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 97 22:32:58 -0800
To: Fun_People
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Subject: Vai the pole its head in a pig!

Forwarded-by: Nev Dull <>
From: (Guy Harris)

Digital's blurb on their Web-page translation software is at

and says:

	Digital Equipment Corporation today announced it has broken the
	Internet language barrier, with the first European language
	translation service for Web content.  For the first time,
	non-English speaking Web surfers can translate information on
	the predominantly English speaking Web in real time.  The new
	free service, provided on Digital's AltaVista Search service,
	also gives English-only Web surfers the ability to understand
	information in five of the world

	"We are launching this technology as a global experiment and we
	invite our 12 million monthly users to test drive this
	breakthrough technology for the Web," said Louis Monier,
	director of technology for Digital "For the first time, users
	will be able to understand, in real-time, Web sites written in
	other languages.  With 70 percent of the Web pages written in
	English, our technology provides access to a world of
	information to a greater population."

Or, at least, access to a world of amusement.  I'd never heard of the US
industrial band "Nine inch of Nails" before AltaVista's translation of
the Rammstein page I mentioned in earlier mail told me about it....

Subject: Tormenting the Babel Fish

Forwarded-by: (Guy Harris)

Well, I decided to try a couple of the classic "break the automatic
translator" phrases on Digital's whiz-bang automatic translator.

"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" translated into
Portuguese (language of the author of the infamous *English as She is
Spoke*) as:

	O esp=EDrito =E9 disposto, mas a carne =E9 fraca.

and went back into English as

	The made use esprito, but the weak meat.

Not *quite* "the liquor is OK but the meat is no good", but....

"Out of sight, out of mind" was rendered in Italian as:

	Da vista, dalla mente.

and back into English as

	From sight, the mind.

Using German, it went to:

	Aus Anblick aus Verstand heraus heraus.

and then to

	From sight from understanding out.

It appears that "invisible idiot" isn't on the agenda for the Babel Fish...

Subject: The Babel Fish's home waters

From: (Guy Harris)

Well, Digital had a link to the vendor of the software they used.

If you go to a page that describes how the software works, at:

it says:

	SYSTRAN, famous for its past as supplier for the government and
	industry, has a flexible organization which allows to develop at
	the rhythm of technologic evolution and emerging ideas in the
	field of computer linguistic.
	Without losing benefit from hundred of people / years invested
	since 1968 in the development of linguistic dictionaries and
	rules for its impressive choice of language pairs, SYSTRAN has
	learned to evolve successfully towards a sophisticated system of
	transfer type automatic translation.

"OK, what comes *after* SYSTRAN in their name", I wonder.

I was not exactly surprised to find that it was "S.A.", as in "societe
anonymee", or something such as that - i.e., they're a French company.
The page in question sure reads as if was written by a French person -
or, perhaps, written in French and translated into English by a French


	SYSTRAN dictionaries, rich and coded in an entire way, are
	essential to make a translation of quality.  There is, for each
	source language, two dictionaries: the dictionary of simple
	words and the one for expressions.


	On the whole, dictionaries contain a total of more than 2,3
	million entirely coded words and expressions.


	Dictionary of simple words

	It contains simple words (terminology and roots).  Each word is
	accompanied by broad coded information, on its morphology,
	syntactic behavior, possible functions in the case of homograph,
	the roles and semantic attributes and its relations with other
	concepts based on semantic taxonomy of 500 categories.

(Okay, why the hell doesn't it include the *GENDER* of the word, so
that, for example, when translating from French into English, you don't
turn all third-person singular pronouns into "it"?)


	Dictionary of expressions

	The dictionary of expressions can include many types of inputs,
	classified as below according to their complexity
	The expression of syntagmatic substitution enables syntagmatic
	rigid form, prepositional or adverbial locutions to be merged
	into one single pseudo-stem which is then coded in the stem
	dictionary as a single word.  It will be analyzed as a single

	The collocation allocates a simple signification to an
	expression which elements are analyzed and rigid and is frequent
	for technical noun phrase.

	The conditional expression indicates conditions for which one or
	many words need a specific target translation.  Those conditions
	can be any syntactic criteria (including syntactic features) or
	semantic attribute, or any semantic relation defined by SYSTRAN.
	Those rules can be more or less complicated.

(I assume, then, that "of the socks" is not in the German dictionary,
meaning "surprised", as AltaVista's translator made no attempt to
translate that when I tried running a German page through it.)

You know, it's probably not the brightest idea in the world to construct
the English-language pages on your website by running them through your
software, if the software really doesn't *quite* understand how to
translate idioms or all of the words in the document.

(I suppose it's not as bad as it could have been had they been SYSTRAN
AG; at least French syntax isn't nearly as far from English syntax as is
German syntax.  I would *really* have been of the socks had I read a
translation such as that....)

Subject: Go stick your head in a pig.

Forwarded-by: glen mccready <>
Forwarded-by: matthew green <>
From: Anthony Baxter <>

The from Digital is, which offers
machine translation of web pages or text. Of course, the big test of one
of these engines is to feed it some text, translate it, then translate it
back again.

As our test case, we'll use the common expression "Go stick your head in
a pig"[1].

English: Go stick your head in a pig.
 French: Disparaissent le baton votre tete chez un porc.
English: Disappear the stick your head in a pig.

English: Go stick your head in a pig.
 German: Verschwinden der Stock Ihr Kopf in einem Schwein.
English: Disappear the stick your heading in a pig.

English: Go stick your head in a pig.
Italian: Va il bastone la vostra testa in un maiale.
English: Your head in a pig goes the stick.

English: Go stick your head in a pig.
Spanish: Va el palillo su cabeza en un cerdo.
English: Its head in a pig goes the small stick.

   English: Go stick your head in a pig.
Portugeuse: Vai a vara sua cabega em um porco.
   English: Vai the pole its head in a pig.

Maybe there needs to be a little more work done on this...

[1] "Go stick your head in a pig" is a registered trademark of Sirius
Cybernetics Corp, Complaints Division.

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