Let’s Test the
World Lingo Online Translator

OK, now let’s try World Lingo. We ran Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland through Yahoo’s Babel Fish Translator and the Google Translator to test their abilities, so let’s try a different text this time.

Here’s an extract from the first chapter of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol, and its authorized German translation by Julius Seybt.

Let’s see what World Lingo makes of it.

TIP!: This text is taken from the Gutenberg Project (www.gutenberg.org), the first and largest distributor of copyright free eBooks. The Gutenberg Project is also one of my recommended sources of free German translation – look up classic German texts with authorized English translations, or find German translations of well-known English works of literature, and then compare them.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Extract from chapter one: Marley’s Ghost

"Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas."

Now, we’ll take Julius Seybt’s authorized German translation of this passage and put it through World Lingo so see if we come up with an English version which bears some resemblance to the original:

Here are our results:

"O, it was a true blood Auger, the Scrooge! Greedy, zusammenscharrender, holding, stingy old Sünder; hard and sharply like a flint, from which still no steel struck a warm spark; locked and been content and for itself, like an oyster. Cold weather in its heart made its old courses solidifies, its pointed nose still pointedly, its face of Runzeln, its course rigidly, its for eyes red, its thin lips blue, and sounded from its krächzenden voice. A frosty hoar frost lay on its head, on its brows, on the strong short hair of its beard. It always dragged its own low temperature with itself around; in the dog steam turbine and gas turbine systems it cooled its Comptoir as with ice; to the Christmas season it did not warm it around a degree.

Not sure how World Lingo came up with "dog steam turbine" or the "gas turbine systems", but there you go.

This machine translation by World Lingo is a gist translation and needs rewriting and retranslating to create an acceptable text.

However, its no better or worse than the other free online translators or service offered by these free translation websites.

Now for step two of our comparison: For you German speakers, here is the authorized German translation of this extract by Julius Seybt:

„O, er war ein wahrer Blutsauger, der Scrooge! Ein gieriger, zusammenscharrender, festhaltender, geiziger alter Sünder; hart und scharf wie ein Kiesel, aus dem noch kein Stahl einen warmen Funken geschlagen hat; verschlossen und selbstbegnügt und für sich, wie eine Auster. Die Kälte in seinem Herzen machte seine alten Züge erstarren, seine spitze Nase noch spitzer, sein Gesicht von Runzeln, seinen Gang steif, seine Augen rot, seine dünnen Lippen blau, und klang aus seiner krächzenden Stimme heraus. Ein frostiger Reif lag auf seinem Haupt, auf seinen Augenbrauen, auf den starken kurzen Haaren seines Bartes. Er schleppte seine eigene niedere Temperatur immer mit sich herum; in den Hundstagen kühlte er sein Comptoir wie mit Eis; zur Weihnachtszeit wärmte er es nicht um einen Grad.!"

Now we'll see how World Lingo compares with Julius Seybt in providing us with a German translation of the original:

"OH-! Aber er war eine feste-fisted Hand am Schleifstein, Scrooge! Ein Zusammendrücken, entreißend und greifen und reiben und erfassen, covetous, altes sinner! Hart und Scharfes als Feuerstein, von dem kein Stahl überhaupt heraus großzügiges Feuer angeschlagen hatte; Geheimnis und selbständiges und alleines als Auster. Die Kälte innerhalb er fror seine alten Eigenschaften ein, geklemmt seiner spitzen Nase, geschrumpft seiner Backe, versteift seinem Gait; bildete sein Augen Rot, seine dünnen blauen Lippen; und Speiche heraus shrewdly in seiner kratzenden Stimme. Ein eisiger Rauhreif war auf seinem Kopf und auf seinen Augenbrauen und seinem wiry Kinn. Er trug seine eigene niedrige Temperatur immer ungefähr mit ihm; er gefror sein Büro in den Dog-days; und taute es nicht ein Grad am Weihnachten auf."

What can we learn from these translations?

Translation is so much more than simply swopping German words for English equivalents and vice versa.

This is a good example of the need to consider the setting of the original text, ie. context. Here the German translator uses borrowed language in order to be true to the text’s setting – in the authorized German translation Seybt has used the French word “Comptoir” to translate Dickens’ use of the word “office”. The standard German translation of office is “Büro” so we can assume that Seybt had a specific reason for chosing the word “Comptoir” - perhaps to reflect the historical setting of the novel?

Why the problem here with “dog-days”? As you see in Julius Seybt’s authorized translation, the correct translation is actually the literal translation - “Hundetagen”. And “covetous”, “sinner” and “shrewdly” should be in the online translator’s vocabulary.

These German and English translations show just how subtle and complex language can be.

Translation programmes such as this will continue to improve and become increasingly useful, but will never match the beauty and coherence of a well considered translation.

Want to know more about what makes a good translation? Check this out.

As well as machine translations for short German texts, Worldlingo offers free email translations, document translations and website translations in a whole host of language combinations. Naturally this is a lead-in for the translation products and services they aim to sell.

Your choice of free online translators:

Google Translator

Yahoo's Babel Fish Translator


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