Friday, January 23, 2009

Outline skating, cheek by jowl in a riot (lost in translation)

I'm trying to follow the results of the ladies' events in the European Figure Skating championships in Helsinki, but some of the first reports that I saw were in Finnish. I can't read Finnish text, but I can read Finnish numbers.

Taitoluistelun EM-kilpailut, naiset, tilanne lyhytohjelman jälkeen:

1) Laura Lepistö Suomi 56,62
2) Susanna Pöykiö Suomi 56,06
3) Carolina Kostner Italia 51,36
4) Jenna McCorkell Britannia 50,00
5) Katarina Gerboldt Venäjä 48,62
6) Ivana Reitmayerova Slovakia 48,00
7) Kiira Korpi Suomi 47,60
8) Irina Movtshan Ukraina 46,48
9) Tugba Karademir Turkki 46,26
10) Nella Simaova Tshekki 45,24

Since Laura Lepistö is my second favorite Finnish figure skater (you don't know my favorite Finnish figure skater), I'm naturally pleased with the results.

And I was even more pleased when I found an English language account of the short program.

Until I actually read it.

Once you start looking at the account, it's obvious that the account was actually written in another language, then translated to English via automatic translation software. It's pretty obvious that no human reviewed the translation, especially after seeing phrases like this:

HELSINKI, Finland: Laura Lepisto and Susanna Poykio of Finland gave the hometown fans a 1-2 finish Friday in the pointed program, in which case Carolina Kostner indispensably to make a good use of to bring over a third straight denominate at the European outline skating championships....

Later Friday, Russia'session Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski possibility of good to gain over their earliest inscription in ice-cream dandle....

Kostner was heavily favored to make it three European titles in a riot, something that hasn'cheek by jowl been granted since France'session Surya Bonaly won five upright from 1991-95....

Poykio's literary work was a scrap of redemption. Runner-up at the 2005 Europeans, the 26-year-old didn'familiarily on a level contribute the Finnish lot ultimate year. But she looked relaxed and cocksure, and is 4 minutes from some other European medal.

And yes, we laugh at things like this, but it does point out a serious flaw in my eventual plan for world domination (which will occur after I secure the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Illinois). I am reputed to be able to speak English, and I have some very small ability to read Spanish and German, but there are (give or take) 6,912 living languages in the world today. And, as the example above proves, we aren't even able to master a greatly reduced subset of these languages, such as the 34 languages supported by Google Translate.

The ideal solution in the past (and present) has been for everyone to adopt a common, universal language when communicating with people from other parts of the world. As Omniglot notes, previous and current candidates for a universal (or semi-universal) language have included Greek, Latin, French, English, and Chinese. And the Omniglot article didn't even mention everyone's favorite universal language. But even this language has its drawbacks:

(with apologies to The Eagles)

Esperanto, why don't you come to your senses,
Your simplified tenses aren't enough anyhow,
Oh you're a hard one, but I know that you've got your reasons,
The cases that were pleasin' you, accuse you now

Don't you call the queen reg^ino boy, she'll king you if she's able
You know what kind of queen wants a name that ends in -o
Now it seems to me extreme things have been set out in that table,
You should corral your silly schemes, you know

Esperanto, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger,
You age and you hunger, and you're all but unknown,
And English, oh English, well that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

Don't your circumflex now circumscribe
The speed we type and the speed we write,
It's hard to circumcise it either way,
And you're writin' X or H or gripes,
Ain't it ASCII you were plannin' for, I say?

Esperanto, why don't you come to your senses,
Stop manning those fences- open the gate
You may be failing, but there's ways to rearrange you
You'd better let somebody change you,
Let somebody change you
You'd better let somebody change you,
Before it's too late...

Taquito to the person who wrote that song parody.

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