Team Translation

It was inevitable, but it's still awesome. Someone has set up a page to do a translation of a major work through a wiki. And what an appropriate choice: Check out this effort to translate Bastiat into German.

The idea is that books can be translated by opening up the text to anyone who wants to fiddle with word choice or emphasis. The real question: Who will do the grunt work to get the translation started? I can't read German, so I'm not sure how this one works, but it seems like a Babel Fish or other automated translation might be a good place to start.

What books would you help translate? 

More wikilicious fun from reason here

Via Marginal Revolution

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  • Lev Strauss||

    I could do German books, but my German is limited. I could add ch's to all the I's.

  • ||

    .. do you know of the Gutenburg Project??

    http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

    .. they are offering the text of public domain documents for download, many of them as translations (as well as original language) ..

    .. they can be downloaded to PDAs and I have gone thru all the Wells and Verne and am currently about halfway thru the complete works of Mark Twain while standing in various lines or stuck in sundry waiting rooms ..

    .. of course this is all old news to the geeks but this 54 year old hobbit thinks that it's pretty cool ..

    .. Hobbit

  • ||

    .. more on-topic, Verne is translated from the original French and Wells is translated from the original English..

    .. for us folk on the left side of The Pond ..

    .. Hobbit

  • Tsu Dho Nihm||

    That looks much more useful than the Lolcat Bible.

  • Dave||

    I wish Roderick Long would hurry up and finish his translation of Les Soirées de la Rue Saint-Lazare. I'm really looking forward to reading that. How about a wiki for translating foreign works into English.

  • ||

    Babel Fish is not a good place to start, finish, or anything in between. A severely flawed translation engine, it is only good for getting the general idea of what foreign text is saying, and even then it can often mislead more than illuminate. I am glad it exists, but even for an amateur translation project, it has no place.

    To see what I mean, write a typical english sentence, translate it to another language, and then translate it back using the engine. It will often do more than just append "purple monkey dishwasher" to the end.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    The ultimate translation project has already been done: Hamlet in Klingon.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    To see what I mean, write a typical english sentence, translate it to another language, and then translate it back using the engine. It will often do more than just append "purple monkey dishwasher" to the end.

    "Gorbachev Sings Tractors: Turnip! Buttocks!"

  • Plant Immigration RIghts Suppo||

    Tsu Dho Nihm,

    Thanks for the link. I will have to visit to check on progress and maybe even contribute. Check this out from Leviticus:

    "1 Teh Ceiling Cat saiz to Mozes, "O hai! Outta ur tabby-nackels, d00dthx.2 U should go saiz this to Izrulites, for to IM me, Hey Ceiling Cat, I can has stuff :) and liek that, they gotta bring me teh cheezeburgers or other good stuff for impruvin teh conneckshun winkwink.""

    Pure gold!

  • ||

    The ultimate translation project has already been done: Hamlet in Klingon.

    That is just sad. Smile ruefully, shake my head, sad.

  • Colin||

    I thought the ultimate translation project was translating Suess into Latin.

  • ||

    What books would you help translate?

    I'm not making this up. Aboard the warship Waddell in missile plot one day, I ran across an "adult" paperback titled "My Dog, My Daughter". Who wants to be resposnsible for getting that translated?

  • ||

    Brian
    The real test would have been to type the quote with the hyperlink.

    (I keep Bloom County Babylon: Five Years of Basic Naughtiness in my, umm, bathroom)

  • J. P. Carlo||

    I have done something like this from time to time.

    I use babelfish to start, which usually results in poorly phrased English text, then go back through to clean up the grammar. Technical words are pretty easy even if they aren't translated by the site, because they usually look and sound similar in other languages (e.g. a term like psychiatry or chemistry, or something containing a proper name like Fourier transform typically doesn't change much from language to language).

    Then if there are individual words that don't seem to parse well, I go back through with a good dictionary, which often has better suggestions than translation software will spit out by default.

    Failing that (and it rarely gets that far - idiomatic expressions and the like don't turn up often in technical documents), I can ask a friend who's fluent in that language what a particular word or phrase means (which is a much smaller favor than asking them to translate an entire document).

  • ||

    Tom Palmer could easily do it I bet.

    He was a boy genius and fluent in German to boot.

  • ||

    Someone might want to tell them that La Loi is also available in Arabic and a whole bunch of other languages.

    What happened to German?

    Links to some liberal works in Arabic: (might have to scroll down some)

  • ||

    http://www.tomgpalmer.com/archives/026012.php

  • ||

    These people have no credentials, how can we trust that their translations will be up to canonical standards?

  • joe\'s Law (or was it Rule?)||

    Real pretentious scholars don't use comma splices. :-P

  • .||

    I have done something like this from time to time.

    I use babelfish to start, which usually results in poorly phrased English text, then go back through to clean up the grammar. Technical words are pretty easy even if they aren't translated by the site, because they usually look and sound similar in other languages (e.g. a term like psychiatry or chemistry, or something containing a proper name like Fourier transform typically doesn't change much from language to language).

    Then if there are individual words that don't seem to parse well, I go back through with a good dictionary, which often has better suggestions than translation software will spit out by default.

    Failing that (and it rarely gets that far - idiomatic expressions and the like don't turn up often in technical documents), I can ask a friend who's fluent in that language what a particular word or phrase means (which is a much smaller favor than asking them to translate an entire document).


    Sorry -- but I have to think that any important document translated in that manner would be pretty useless.

    It would be very difficult to understand the nuances of the language and culture of the original author unless you happen to be someone that is well versed in that language and what the original author is writing about.

    In other words, I think that method would result in a significant loss of meaning.

  • Nate||

    Why, Atlas Shrugged to Arabic, of course.

  • ||

    I must agree with . ... . It is kind of a pointless exercise to be translating anything of worth using Babelfish. This is where the study of foreign languages and cultures really pays off.

    I'd probably translate Beowulf from the Old English (even though it's already been done many times). I was going to take a class in college that attempted to do exactly that, but the course schedule conflicted with another, required course that I had to take.

  • dmoynihan||

    There've actually been a number of folks who've translated popular works like the Jin Yong/Gu Long books from Chinese to English.

    Here's one guy, but it was a message-board-type thing with most of the Jin Yong's.

    And, yeah, someone in Vancouver did Kafka.

    Others have done a bunch from the original Latin...

  • ||

    I will suggest that they consider translating the collected works of James Joyce into English.

  • Untermensch||

    Translation is my area of speciality. For once I'm going to agree with the elitists:

    * the Babelfish approach is a recipe for, well, disaster. Studies have repeatedly shown that unless machine translation is "tuned" to the appropriate text by adding specialized vocabulary rules, etc., it takes more time to clean it up than it does to just translate the bloody text manually. Literature is also much harder to translate that technical text (this is true of both human and machine translation). Throw someone into the mix who doesn't understand the source language and you will get crap out of the process.

    * open-source translation projects can work, but they require someone who takes ownership and resolves conflicts and stylistic issues. Otherwise you get results that are so inconsistent as to be useless. Worse than "translation by committee," which at least has the dubious advantage of producing a consistent, but generally bland text. The committees have a mandate to produce a text that everyone can live with. In an open model where anyone can change the text you will see the ideological and personal debates that characterize translation (actually a big business issue in some cases) manifest as the equivalent of Wikipedia's edit and wheel-edit wars: you'll get some people who feel they know how the text should be translated and others who know that they are doodoo heads and completely wrong because only an idiot would translate it that way.

    I'm all for people trying this experiment, and I'd love to be proved wrong about it, but my prediction is that the project (a) falls apart before anything approaching a complete translation is done, (b) is taken over by one or at most a few dedicated volunteers who do the work themselves and zealously guard the project against interlopers, or (c) produces spectacularly bad results that are in constant flux.

  • Urkobold™||

    THE URKOBOLD PUT HIMSELF THROUGH COLLEGE TRANSLATING AMERICAN ENGLISH INTO BRITISH ENGLISH.

  • Episiarch||

    I would say that...perseverance number one atritude...aptude...attribute. I people person. Uh, work good with children. People rike me. Because I force them to! With violence!

    I rule you!

  • ||

    "subhuman" (his choice, not mine) is completely correct.
    For many years I watched my late uncle translate books on wine. In the process he became as much of an expert on the subject as the authors themselves. Translating takes knowledge, experience, an imagination, much time and above all incredible patience to do right.

  • ||

    So, taking raidsmith's first paragraph:

    Babel Fish is not a good place to start, finish, or anything in between. A severely flawed translation engine, it is only good for getting the general idea of what foreign text is saying, and even then it can often mislead more than illuminate. I am glad it exists, but even for an amateur translation project, it has no place.



    And translating it to Spanish then English through Babelfish:

    The fish of Babel is not a good place to begin, to finish, or any thing meanwhile. A seriously damaged motor of the translation, is only good to obtain the general concept of what foreign text is saying, and uniforms then can often deceive more than it illuminates. I am glad he I exist, but I equal for an become fond of project of the translation, he I do not have no place.



    And then the same thing with Google Translate:


    Babel Fish is not a good place to start, finish, or anything in between. A seriously flawed translation engine, it is only good to get the general idea of what the text is saying abroad, and even then it can often mislead rather than illuminate. I am glad it exists, but even for a translation project amateur, has no place.



    The winner is Google. Bow before it.

  • ||

    Mark Twain into another language is going to be seriously f'ed up. With his dialect writing, it's a tough translation and still make sense of it.

    Shakespeare into another language is criminal.

  • ||

    Nick,

    Oh, I don't know about that. Here's a Googlization of a famous soliloquy--English to German, German to French, French to English:

    Now, the winter of our discontent
    Made in this beautiful summer sun of York;
    And all the clouds that our house lour'd
    In the depths of the ocean buried breasts.
    Now, our eyebrows, bound with victorious powers crowns;
    Our bruised arm hanging monuments;
    Our star alarums amended joyous encounter,
    Our marches terrible sexy measures.
    Grim-visaged war smooth'd edged his forehead;
    And now, instead of horses mounting barded
    To frighten the souls of opponents fear,
    It capers fast the lady in a room
    Among the happy lasziver a lute.
    But I know that I am not in shape for sports tours,
    Similarly, a court amourösen search for a glass;
    I am impolite stamp'd that, as love and want Majesty
    For major arbitrary strolling in front of a nymph;
    Me, what I curtail'd fair share,
    Gemogelt hypocritical of the function of nature,
    Verformt, unfinish'd sent before my time
    In this World breathing, or nearly half,
    And if flawed and outmoded
    Dogs bark, what about me, when I kept them;
    Why I entered this period of weak pipeline of peace,
    You did not pleased to pass the time,
    Unless, I spy the shadow of the sun
    And on my own descant distortion:
    And it is because I can not prove a lover,
    To respond more effectively to maintain talked today
    I am determined to prove a villain
    And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
    Plots, I placed inductor dangerous,
    With drunken prophecies, dreams and defame,
    For my brother Clarence and the king
    In a deadly hatred against others:
    And if King Edward, and also true that
    Since I am subtle, false and treacherous,
    This day should be closely mew'd Clarence,
    A prophecy that says "G"
    By Edward's heirs to the killer.
    Dive, the thought in my mind: here
    Clarence.

  • Gahan||

    Ok, Warty. Let's see the Spanish version of that text. Having the program translate something from English to another language and then back into English doesn't really prove anything. The translation into the second language could have been terrible, but if the thing just undoes whatever it did the first time around, you would get more or less the same text in English.

  • ||

  • Untermensch||

    Gahan, what Warty's done is called back translation. It never improves texts, but rather exaggerates the problems in the translated text. It never undoes the damage it did. The technique is routinely used to check quality of translated texts because it highlights problems very effectively. Warty did exactly the right thing to compare the differences between the translations.

    (The only way it would undo problems would be if Google were archiving translation requests and results and comparing them to future requests. While the technology exists to do this, they aren't using it. And yes, I do know something about what they are doing internally.)

    The difference you see between Babelfish and Google has to do with the fact that they are using very different engines to do what they do.

  • Untermensch||

    Oh, I don't know about that. Here's a Googlization of a famous soliloquy--English to German, German to French, French to English:



    And the only reason it didn't do worse is because it didn't know some of the words (like lour'd) and simply passed them through untranslated through all the steps and back into English. So each of the steps in this case actually looked worse than this English because you crapped out the system in the testing.

  • ||

    Yes, it sucks. Interesting how "winter of our discontent" survived, though.

  • Untermensch||

    I realize I sound like I'm contradicting what I just told Gahan, but I'm not really. The difference is that the Shakespeare text wasn't ever really translated: significant chunks were passed through without any action. It's a simple matter to confirm that this is not what happened in Warty's trial.

  • ||

    Me doy cuenta de que suene como que estoy en contradicción con lo que acabo le dijo Gahan, pero no estoy realmente. La diferencia es que el texto de Shakespeare no fue nunca realmente traducido: trozos importantes se aprobaron sin ningún tipo a través de la acción. Es una simple cuestión para confirmar que no se trata de lo que sucedió en el juicio de Warty.


    I realize that I sound like that contradicts what I just told Gahan, but I am not really. The difference is that the language of Shakespeare was never really translated: major cuts were approved without any kind through action. It is a simple matter to confirm that this is not what happened in the trial of Warty.

  • ||

    I'm actually really impressed by how well Google translate holds up.

  • Gahan||

    "El juicio de Warty?" Warty is going on trial? What are the charges?

    I must admit, though, that translation is better than most machine translations I've seen. It's awkward and ungrammatical in places, but at least it's intelligible, which is more than I can say for Babel Fish.

  • Gahan||

    Warty proves my point, however. The fact that "trial" was translated as "juicio" in Spanish and then back-translated to "trial" in English again does not mean that "juicio" was the correct word. Here we have an example of the word "trial" having multiple meanings in English that correspond to multiple words in Spanish. The machine chose the word in Spanish that refers to a courtroom trial rather than a test run.

  • ||

    Thanks Pro Libertate.

    I rest my case.

  • ||

    Nick,

    Oh, I don't know. Maybe "Our dreadful marches to delightful measures" is improved upon by "Our marches terrible sexy measures."

  • Alen||

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