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Microsoft's Bing Translator

What can a free online translator do?

To help show you the abilities and limitations of a free online translator – Microsoft's Bing translator - I'll run a test translation:

Lewis Carroll’s "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a children’s classic which many of you will have read.

Here I have put an excerpt from Chapter One (both the English original and the authorised German translation by Antonie Zimmerman) through this free online translator.

See what you make of the results.

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.

OK, here's the original:

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

ORIGINAL Down the Rabbit-Hole
 "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.

Now, if we put the authorized German translation through the Bing translator we would hope to come up with an English version which bears some resemblance to the original. Let's see what happens:

Authorized German translation put through the Bing translator: Down into rabbit building.

 "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.  "

Now, I'm pretty impressed.

And if you're interested, I also did this test 5 years ago, when the Bing translator was still Yahoo Babelfish. The improvement since then is pretty impressive:

Authorized German translation put through Yahoo's Babelfish: Down into the building of rabbits.

"Alice caught actually to bore; it did not sit for a long time with its sister at the bank and had anything to do. The book, which read their sister, did not please her; because were neither pictures nor discussions in it. ”

And which books are useful, “thought Alice,” without pictures and discussions? “ It considered itself evenly, (so well it went, because it was sleepy and stupid from the heat,) whether it was worth to the trouble to rise and Gänseblümchen pick, in order to make a chain thereby, when suddenly a white rabbit with red eyes by-ran closely at it.

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!

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.

Now I'm sure you're confident in German, so enjoy this authorized translation of the above passage by Antonie Zimmermann:

Authorized German translation by Antonie Zimmerman: Hinunter in den Kaninchenbau.

"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 ihr vorbeirannte."

If I put the English original through the Bing translator and ask it to provide a German translation, this is what we get:

Original English version translated into German by the Bing translator:

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.

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

Why not try Microsoft's Bing translator yourself?

I've done similar tests on the following free online translators available on the internet:

TIP! If you only want to translate a few words then you might well be better off with a free
online German dictionary
which will give you more detailed information and a variety of alternative translations, according to context.

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