Our Family’s (2nd) Year in the South of France
Kids and Castles - Our year with kids in the South of France

Naked Squeegee Party?

JM brought me some old copies of The Economist when he came back from California. I was fascinated by this article on the future of English as the “world’s second language”. It argues that English will stop being used so commonly, because technology will replace the need for a commonly used global business language:

“English will have no successor because none will be needed. Technology…will fill the need.”

Interesting, but I’m not convinced. The technology is really just not there. Even with the incredible smarts underlying the Google Translate service, the algorithms still don’t understand the context of language. Here are a few examples:

  • We were invited to get together with some people in the village, so of course we asked what we could bring. The response was “Non bien sûr vous ne portez rien” which Google translated as “Of course you do not wear anything”. I’m hoping our hostess actually meant that we shouldn’t bring anything.
  • A local family invited us for dinner where they would serve a raclette – a Swiss dish that is mostly melted cheese. I put the message into Google Translate just to check that I understood the details, and found out we’d been invited to “participate in a squeegee”.
  • We put together some ideas for L’s birthday presents. She really wants a spinning top, called a toupie in French. I did a sanity check on the list before sending it out, and for some reason Google decided L wants a “router” for her birthday.
  • Google Translate thinks my belle-mere (mother-in-law) speaks old English, and translated her inquiry “As-tu mangé de l’agneau que tu aimes beaucoup?” as “Hast thou eaten of the lamb that you like?”

Google Translate

All these examples are from just this week, so these are common occurrences, not rare exceptions. Personally, I am not stopping my efforts to learn French anytime soon.

8 Responses to “Naked Squeegee Party?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TravelGoon. TravelGoon said: Giggling. RT @kidsncastles: This has been a week of "interesting" translations from Google Translate. New blog post-> http://bit.ly/gts9Hx […]

  2. Val says:

    And hast thou made progress on the French skills? Or are you serving squeegee for supper tonight?

  3. Lise Patenaude says:

    “Hast thou … ” LOL
    I am still rolling on the floor. I can’t believe this. Is there any part of the world still using that? Maybe.
    But on a serious note, to be consistent, shouldn’t your translator have said: “Hast thou eaten lamb that THOU likes.”

  4. Lisane says:

    RFOL !
    Is L enjoying our router?

  5. patti says:

    I’ve been using Google translator to write to a Ukrainian friend who speaks Russian. Just for fun, once, I translated my English into Russian – and then translated it back. His name is Eugene – Jenya, in Russian – and it had changed it to Jack. The message really lost a lot of its meaning, I think. Whenever I write, I find myself trying to use very simple phrases that Google translator won’t screw up.

    • Diane H. says:

      It is odd how Google Translate tries to “translate” names. Sometimes BUT NOT ALWAYS Diane becomes Diana, Genvieve becomes Jennifer, etc. As Lise pointed out, it’s inconsistent.

  6. Bob says:

    The US Army is trailing verbal simultaneous translators on smartphones.

    Pashto is their high priority. French, not so much.

    Although I have met quite a few Afghans here in Australia who speak French.