Lewis Carroll’s "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a children’s classic which many of you will have read.
I've put an excerpt from Chapter One through Microsoft's Bing translator - first the English original to evaluate the German translation, and then
the authorised German translation by Antonie Zimmerman to see what job Bing does of turning it back to English.
See what you make of the results.
Step one: Putting the authorized German translation through the Bing
translator to see if we come up with an English version which bears
some resemblance to the original text.
"Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice 'without pictures or conversation?' So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her."
"Alice began to get bored; She had been sitting on the shore with her sister for a long time and had nothing to do. She didn't like the book her sister read; Because it was neither pictures nor conversations in it. » And what good are books, «Alice thought,» without pictures and conversations? « She just thought (as best she could, because she was sleepy and stupid from the heat) whether it was worth the effort to get up and pick daisies to do a chain with it when suddenly a white rabbit with red eyes ran close past her. "
Your first reaction to this translation may be "Oh dear", but - as a professional German translator - I still find it amazing that a computer programme can come up with an English translation of a German text at all!
And if you're interested, I also did this test 5 years ago, when the
Bing translator was still Yahoo Babelfish, and there is a noticeable
Microsoft's Bing translator has produced a gist translation of good quality - I get a very good idea of what the text is about, so I can decide what to do next.
The next step is to put the English original through the Bing translator and ask it to provide a German translation, and compare this to the authorized German translation of the above passage by Antonie Zimmermann.
Here's what we get:
"Alice fing an sich zu langweilen; sie
saß schon lange bei ihrer Schwester am Ufer und hatte nichts zu tun. Das
Buch, das ihre Schwester las, gefiel ihr nicht; denn es waren weder
Bilder noch Gespräche darin. »Und was nützen Bücher,« dachte Alice,
»ohne Bilder und Gespräche?« Sie überlegte sich eben, (so gut es
ging, denn sie war schläfrig und dumm von der Hitze,) ob es der Mühe
wert sei aufzustehen und Gänseblümchen zu pflücken, um eine Kette damit
zu machen, als plötzlich ein weißes Kaninchen mit roten Augen dicht an
"Alice an, sehr müde zu werden, bei ihrer Schwester auf der Bank zu sitzen und nichts zu tun zu haben: Ein oder zwei Mal hatte sie in das Buch hineingeschaut, das ihre Schwester las, aber es hatte keine Bilder oder Gespräche darin, und was nützt ein Buch , ' thought Alice ' ohne Bilder oder Gespräch? ' So überlegte sie sich in ihrem eigenen Kopf (so gut sie konnte, denn der heiße Tag machte ihr das Gefühl sehr verschlafen und dumm), ob die Freude, eine Gänsekette zu machen, sich die Mühe wert wäre, aufzustehen und die Gänseblümchen zu pflücken, als plötzlich ein weißer Kaninchen mit rosa Augen lief In ihrer Nähe."
Our verdict on the Bing translator?
Not bad in getting the meaning over, but not something you'd hand in as a piece of your own work!
At the risk of sounding school-marmey, if you'd like to know more about what makes a German translation good then check this out.
I think these translations show just how subtle and complex language can be.
Translation programmes are improving fast and becoming increasingly useful, but I don't believe that they will ever match the beauty and coherence of a well thought out translation. There will
TIP! These texts are taken from the Gutenberg Project, the first and largest distributor of eBooks, and are copyright free. The Gutenberg Project is also one of my recommended sources of free German translations for German translation students, providing copyright-free English and German versions of classic texts.
Other articles in this series:
Machine Translation: the pros and cons of free online translators and their role in German translation
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