Like many of the best things about the web, the Babelfish language translator has been around since the beginning. I’ve been using it a fair amount lately to massage my French back into working order; one good trick is to take a web page you know, then translate it to French and read it back to yourself. There are lots of little vocab words I’ve let dangle by the curbside of my brain, easy words like “laid,” which ironically means “ugly.” It’s remembering this crap that helps you get by in another country.
Of course, the translator isn’t perfect, and you can get some pretty surreal stuff back. One of my favorite things to do is take an English page, translate it to French, then translate that translation back to English. It’s like a game of “Operator,” as the meanings get more and more diffused by their ancient Latin roots.
Take one of my blog entries from last week:
“My fellow Americans:
What the fuck is wrong with you?
It was in tonight’s fading hours that I realized the same horror that I had sublimated almost two years ago: it’s not the Republicans I can’t stand, it’s you. Exactly what mass delusion are you suffering from, the one that told you it was okay to let one party take over the White House, both chambers of Congress and the Supreme Court? It’s one thing to tolerate a political party that doesn’t like black people, that wants to keep women earning 73 cents to a man’s dollar, to start an era of coat-hanger abortions, to unilaterally attack any country full of brown people that they want, and to fuck up the environment so bad that my grandkids will have to wear 450 SPF sunscreen just to go play on a jungle gym it’s quite another to put them in control of OUR ENTIRE FUCKING COUNTRY.”
And here it is in French turned back into English:
“Americans of mine:
What kisses are erroneous with you?
It was in hours of obliteration that I carried out the same horror that I had sublimated almost two years ago: they are not the Republicans whom I cannot be held, he is you. Exactly from which delusion of mass do you suffer, that which indicated to you that it was correct let a part ensure White Home, the two rooms of the Congress and the Court Supreme? It is a thing to tolerate a political part which does not love the black people, that wants to continue women to gain 73 hundreds with the dollar of a man, to begin one era of the abortions of coat-clotheshanger, to attack unilaterally any completely brown people whom they want, and for shit in the environment so bad that my grandkids will have to carry the SPF 450 sunscreen just to go play on a gymnastics of jungle. It is completely another to put them in the ordering of OUR WHOLE COUNTRY KISSING.”
I guess you could keep translating it from there, go into Portuguese, Spanish, German, and then back into English, but I think I’d like to end with our whole country kissing.