Aug 22 2005

Lost in translation

I love playing around with Google Translate – mostly to look at web sites or read blogs that are written in other languages.  I’m also a big cycling fan and after this year’s Tour I decided to write to the German cyclist Jan Ullrich – one of my favorite riders and the third place finisher in this year’s contest.  I wrote my note in English but also translated it into German using Google. I had forgotten about this note until a few days ago when I actually received a note back from Jan (I’m actually pretty sure it was really from him – it certainly made my day!).  I translated it back to English also using Google, but decided that it was too important to leave to chance, so I forwarded it to a German friend of mine in Frankfurt for a second opinion.  Turns out Google did a pretty nice job translating his response, but was apparently too literal in translating my original note.  I found it pretty amusing and thought I would repeat it here – a good lesson in lexical vs. conceptual meaning.

My original note was meant to say:

Jan- You are a wonderful bicycle rider.  I’ve enjoyed watching you in this year’s tour (as every year).  You are a great champion.  Know that you have many american fans! (translated with Google translate – sorry if the translation is rough).

Your faithful fan,

Turns out I actually wrote:

Jan, you are a wonderful bicycle co-rider. I enjoyed being careful for you during this years Tour (as in previous years).  You are a big champion.  Did you know that you have many American ceiling-fans!

(translated with Google translate you – sad, if translate is coarse)

Your reliable ceiling-fan!

Apparently I’m Jan’s only talking ceiling fan <g>

(In case you were wondering, Jan’s response to me was: Thank you very much for your support!  You are helping me a lot! Sorry I am only replying to your letter now.  Best Regards, Jan)