My brother Rob‘s latest novel, SUCH A KILLING CRIME, was just translated into Italian and he emailed my sibs and myself a computer translation of the first paragraph to see how it looked. Well, those of you who have used the internet translation programs know they are imperfect, and his first paragraph was pretty funny. I often use Babelfish to translate email I receive in other languages (most often, French, Finnish, or Italian). The translations are so poor they make me laugh, but they at least give me the gist of what the writers are trying to tell me. The translation allows me to respond to them in an English email, which they no doubt translate and laugh over in their own language.
Rob’s experience prompted me to translate the first paragraph of my La Baia a Mezzanotte (THE BAY AT MIDNIGHT) from the Italian to English. Of course, a good translator never makes a word-for-word translation, but it’s still fun to see how Babelfish interpreted the start of chapter one.
For reference, here is the first paragraph of THE BAY AT MIDNIGHT in English:
All children make mistakes. Most of those errors in judgment are easily forgotten but some of them are too enormous, too devastating, to ever fully disappear from memory. The mistake I made when I was twelve still haunted me at fifty-three. Most of the time, I didn’t think about it, but there were days when something happened that brought it all back to me in a rush, that filled me with the guilt of a twelve-year-old who had known better and that made me wish I could return to the summer of 1962 and live it over again.
And Babelfish’s translation:
All the children commit of the mistakes. The greater part of these comes easy forgotten, but some are too much large, too much devastatni in order to disappear never of all from the memory. The error that I had store clerk to twelve years still tormented me to cinquantatre. For the greater part of the time I did not think to us. But there were days in which capitava something that in a flash brought back me all to the mind, than it overwhelmed me of the sense of guilt of a dodicenne aware of to have mistaken and it made to wish me of being able to return indetro to the summer of 1962 and to live again it an other time.
I think it will be a while before machines take the place of human interpretors!