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English-to-English translation

or There and Back Again
  (+13, -1)(+13, -1)
(+13, -1)
  [vote for,

This idea embodies some of the elements and spirit of the other two (so far) ideas in this subsubcategory, but is a bit different.

Automatic translation is now good enough to be a widely useful tool, but it will be a long(ish) time before it's good enough to handle all the subtleties and idioms of most languages.

A good test of whether your text will translate well is to try translating it into your target language and back. The results are often disturbing ("I desire the Poles carnally."), but they do make it easy to see which aspects of your writing are causing difficulty for the software.

Suggestions have been made for "partial" translators, or for software which parses the source text so that you can get an idea of how the translation software might struggle. But the parsing problem is part of the problem itself.

At the present stage, only a human can really interpret the subtleties of their own language.

I therefore suggest that online translators have, in addition to the "From" language and "To" language windows, a "There and back again" window, which shows you the back- translation of your text as you type.

So, you type "I love the Polish people and, by the way, I'm a Berliner", and you see "I want to have sex with the people of Poland, and, next to the road, I'm a jelly doughnut."

Immediately, you can spot what has gone wrong, and adjust your English until the back-translation makes some kind of sense. You're not dependent on the computer or, rather, you are depending on it to do only what it already does - sort of man and machine in perfect halfmony.

Of course, the translation errors you see could be caused in the "There" or the "Back" translation, and some errors will happen in the "There" but be undone in the "Back". But if you eliminate the errors by rephrasing, it's at least more likely that your translated text will make sense to the Pole.

You can do this already, of course, with some slice-n- previousing, but it's tedious and not in real-time.

I hope you want to have sex with this idea, and I look forward to taking delivery of moons.

MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 20 2011

Kinda Like This... Translated-Retransl...0Movie_20Soundtrack
[Grogster, Nov 20 2011]

Find equilibrium with Translation Party http://translationparty.com/#9970505
through Japanese, as BunsenHoneydew requested. [calum, Nov 23 2011]


       I think it's a great idea. I really did what you suggest to manually copy and paste style. Here (English Russian to English) bun!
pocmloc, Nov 20 2011

       Yes, I like this. I've also been thinking recently about the problems of presenting work in English to an international audience. When meetings are held in English between a lot of different kinds of non-English-speakers, the native English speaker is sometimes at a disadvantage. This is because all the non-English-speakers are speaking the same, simplified, "international English" whereas the native English speaker cannot help lapsing into a more complex "native English" and thus is not so easily understood by everyone else. I think this translate tool is really checking that the input conforms to "international English".

That's not to say, however, that native English speakers should not use the full beauty and richness of their native language when abroad. There are about 400m native English speakers but about 2bn learning it as a second language, so the native English speaker is providing a useful service to others by using English abroad wherever possible.
hippo, Nov 20 2011

       //English speaker is providing a useful service to others by using English abroad wherever possible//   

       Maybe. Generally I find that when I forgetfully say "ditto" in reply to what someone else has said...it is virtually 100% guaranteed to baffle anyone whose second language is English. Oh, and "I've lost my rubber" and "I'm dying for a fag" also might not go down too well in other versions of English...
not_morrison_rm, Nov 20 2011

       // so the native English speaker is providing a useful service to others by using English abroad//   

       Well, this native English speaker provided a useful service today. I'm in Malaysia at the moment and (I swear I am not making this up) the hotel I'm at is home to the crew and actors making a movie about Vikings. In Malaysia. I don't mean they're making a movie about {Vikings in Malaysia} because that would be silly. They're making a {movie about Vikings} in Malaysia, which of course makes much more sense.   

       The cast of this made-in-Malaysia Viking epic (to be called Vikingdom. Yes, I know.) are variously English, American and Chinese-Irish.   

       So, I got talking to this American guy who studied literature and is now an actor. He wanted to talk about accents, because he's decided that an American actor in a film about Vikings shot in Malaysia should have an English accent. I did what little I could to help.   

       I also met Thor (not the actual god, you understand, but the person who will be Thor in Vikingdom). Thor is about six-foot-two, in all dimensions, and is an East End lad. So he needed no assistance with the English accent, and I'm pretty sure that Thor from Larnden will make as good a Viking as anyone.   

       None of this is really relevant to the present discussion, but it's very rarely that something happens to me which is actually as bizarre as if I had made it up, and it seemed a shame to keep it to myself.   

       Carry on.
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 20 2011

       //something happens to me which is actually as bizarre as if I had made it up// Glad to see you preserve the distinction. Keep taking the tablets.   

       Thank you for the anecdote, and please inform us, should you learn of it, when the movie is released.   

       As for the idea itself, it's an empirical question, innit, whether iteratively adjusting your English until the back-translation makes some kind of sense would converge on a stable solution or not. But it's an *interesting* empirical question. [+]
mouseposture, Nov 20 2011

       I think the word is "discharged" rather than "released". It's already got an entry on IMDb - just look for "Vikingdom". (The title looks in need of an exclamation mark, but I don't think the budget runs to one.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 20 2011

       I think that should be "vi kingdom" - a utopian society established and run according to the principles of the popular Unix text editor.
hippo, Nov 20 2011

       // "vi kingdom" - a utopian society established and run according to the principles of the popular Unix text editor.// Or, equally, kingdom.vi, a slightly different utopian society organized by means of the popular graphical automation programming language. In either case it would be Bluetooth compatible.
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 20 2011

       [hippo] That deserves to be elaborated upon, perhaps in a separate idea. What would those principles be? First thing that springs to mind is a Two Minutes Hate ("We have always been at war with Emacs").
mouseposture, Nov 20 2011

       Vikingdom of the Norse is obviously a there and back translation of "My kingdom for a horse", probably in an East End accent.
Ling, Nov 20 2011

       There seems to be only one major culture which is not represented in this movie. Vikingdom? Vinot?
MaxwellBuchanan, Nov 21 2011

       //it's very rarely that something happens to me which is actually as bizarre as if I had made it up//   

csea, Nov 21 2011

       Quite often, I send emails to people in other jurisdictions where they speak a language is not English. The difficulty lies in getting ready sometimes relatively thin gap in the legislation which can have a major impact on the client's interests. <English->Danish->English>.   

       So, it seem that this might help (notwithstanding that "legislation" is significantly narrower than the originally-typed "law" and could itself lead to confusion or, more alarmingly for my firm's professional indemnity policy, errors in advice). But being aware that I was going to twice-process the text, I was in formulating the above significantly more deliberate in my word choice and sentence contruction than I normally am. This is good training. Perhaps, then, the utility of this idea is not on a webpage but as a feature of a word processor or email client (cutting and pasting and opening of windows being a relative trachle), whereby what the author types is translated there and back again on the fly, the twice-processed words appearing on the page.   

       For the purposes of comparison only, the immediately preceding paragraph, which was written using my more typical logorrhoea approach, when translated there and back again reads:
"So it seems that this may help (whether that "law" is far less than the originally-written "law" and even could lead to confusion, or more alarming for my company's professional liability policies, errors in counseling). But being aware that I had to double-process the text, I was in the formula above, significantly more aware of my word choice and sentence construction than I normally have. It's good training. Perhaps because the applicability of this idea is not on a website, but as part of a word processor or e-mail client (cutting and pasting and opening windows to be a relatively trachle) whereby what the author types are translated forward and back on the fly, appearing twice on processed words on the page"
which supports the principle that this approach to writing should increase clarity for second-language readers and might result in better, cleaner prose from the writer.
calum, Nov 21 2011

       [calum] you forgot the "This does not constitute legal advice. No liability is accepted blah blah blah ..." disclaimer from your annotation.
hippo, Nov 21 2011

       What is really required, in the case of mistranslations, is not a 'There & Back' window but a 'Speak louder & more slowly' button.
DrBob, Nov 21 2011

       //the native English speaker is providing a useful service to others by using English abroad wherever possible.//
Especially the ones who speak it in a raised voice, accompanied by gestures.
fridge duck, Nov 21 2011

       English-Danish-English? Try Japanese and back again.
BunsenHoneydew, Nov 21 2011

       As I have suggested that you are trying again in Japan, [BunsenHoneydew]. We have a machine translator what appears in this configuration.   

       By the way, is indeed pretty annoying to have to keep swapping back and forth between languages and to check whether it is happening.
pocmloc, Nov 21 2011

       [mouseposture]'s conjecture: if you keep this up long enough, the text becomes "Da-da da-da da-da ...." (If proved, it'll be a lemma to Moorcock's thorem: "All art aspires to the condition of Muzac." Namely, "All language aspires to the condition of Tzara.")   

       Unfortunately, this idea might not lead to writing that was clearer, in the ordinary sense. Rather, it might favor polysyllabic technical vocabulary, which (I think) has a better word-for-word correspondence with other languages than basic English. Notice, for example, in [calum]'s example, how //alarming for my company's professional liability policies// survived intact. "Quick, Nurse! The screens!" on the other hand, fails in Finnish, Hungarian, and Japanese.
mouseposture, Nov 22 2011

       //in [calum]'s example, how //alarming for my company's professional liability policies// survived intact.//
Though not unaltered: it was originally "professional indemnity policies". Whether that is a material change is something that a lawyer might argue.

       Anyway, see link, which I could remember existing but wasn't able to locate those many days ago that the idea was posted.
calum, Nov 23 2011

       It's actually more efficient to do things like spelling & grammar checks after you have finished typing your message rather than to try and amend things as you go along. I suspect that the same holds true for translations as well. Better to concentrate on writing down what you want to say first and then to go back and edit it into a form that other people might have a chance to understand...assuming that you want them to understand, obviously, and aren't just trying to bamboozle them with impenetrable jargon.
DrBob, Nov 23 2011


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