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Testing this free online translator on Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol

This article is part of my machine translation series which tests the abilities of free online translators Google Translate, World Lingo, Paralink, and Bing


Testing the World Lingo free online translator by translating an excerpt of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol into English and German.


Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol,  (Chap.1)

I ran a short passage from Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol, and its authorized German translation by Julius Seybt, through the free Paralink translator. Now it’s time to test the performance of World Lingo.

Here we take Julius Seybt’s authorized German translation of the original passage and use this machine translation tool to see if we come up with an English version which bears some resemblance to the original:

Judge for yourself:


ORIGINAL:

"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."


WORLD LINGO TRANSLATION:

"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."

Well, I'm 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 an example of 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, I've taken the original extract in English and put it through World Lingo to see how it's translation into German compares with Julius Seybt's authorized German translation of the original:

AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION:

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.!"


WORLDLINGO TRANSLATION:

"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."


So what does this show us?

Translation is so much more than simply swapping German words for English equivalents and vice versa, and this text offers a good example of the need to consider the setting of the original text, ie. the context.

Here German translator Julius Seybt reverts to borrowed language in order to be true to the text’s setting, using the French 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 Comptoir - perhaps to reflect the historical setting of the novel?

In terms of  correct interpretation, why the problem here with dog-days ? As you see in Julius Seybt’s translation, the correct translation is actually the literal translation - Hundetagen. And covetous, sinner and shrewdly should all be covered in World Lingo's dictionary database.

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


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.


Who is World Lingo?

World Lingo offers free email, text and document translations - but only max. 500 words in length.

Naturally this is a lead-in for the translation products and services sold by their parent company TransPerfect, a global language services provider with over 5000 employees and offices in 90 countries. Free online translators like World Lingo 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.



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This article is part of my machine translation series which tests the abilities of free online translators Google Translate, World Lingo, Paralink, and Bing

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Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna,  Austria.  I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?