August 2009

As a speaker of Japanese and English, I find this hilarious. Translation Party is a site that uses the Google automatic translation to hilarious effect. Now the basis is nothing new. Ever since Babelfish came out, people have been using it to translate phrases from one language to another and then back again to hilarious effect. Where this one differs though, is that it repeats the double-translation until the English phrase it gets back is the same as the one it used in the previous iteration. In other words, it translates until it reaches convergence.

For simple phrases it does pretty well. But for more complicated ones it can come up with some really bizarre results. Here’s a tough one I gave it, a couple of lines from the Camelot song in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

“In war we’re tough and able, quite indefatigable, between our quests we sequin vests, and impersonate Clark Gable.”

The result? “Patience in the war, KURAKUGEBURU spangles to impersonate a good idea to explore is difficult.”

The all-caps KURAKUGEBURU is just Clark Gable. For the first Eng->Jap step it does a pretty good job translating the proper noun into its katakana equivalent, but evidently the English dictionary does not have Clark Gable in it, so it just leaves it in all caps and anglicizes the Japanese pronunciation.

Except for my quest to find an internet connection, the first few days here in Imazu were pretty uneventful. Usually we’re too jet-lagged to do much anyway, so it’s fine with us. Yesterday though, we took a trip to Fukui Prefecture with Ryoko’s aunt and uncle.

I’ve blogged a little about Fukui Prefecture before a few years ago, when we went to visit the nuclear power plant located on one of the many peninsulas there. Interestingly enough, that is right next to the city of Obama, which has gained some notoriety due to the name of the U.S. President. We didn’t go to Obama (I’ve been there before though when my father came to meet Ryoko’s parents. There isn’t much to the city, to tell you the truth), but I did manage to take the following picture as we were driving through Tsuruga, a nearby town:

That’s an advertisement for Obama Ramen. Unfortunately my timing was a bit off and the right edge is cut off by a telephone pole.

The first place we went to was the Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum. It turns out the only place where dinosaur fossils have been found in Japan are in Fukui Prefecture, and to commemorate it the prefecture has built what I can only call a truly, truly excellent museum. I like to go to natural history museums anywhere I go, and this is one of the best I have ever seen. It’s built inside of a giant metallic sphere, which makes the museum easy to spot from several miles away, and makes for a really impressive ceiling once you get into the main body of the museum.