Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Killed the King of the Dragon: Google Latin Translate

Ave amici! In one of Life of Brian's funniest scenes, a Roman goes up to Brian as he's graffitiing a wall. 'Romanes eunt domus', he's written. 'What's this then? People called Romanes they go the house?' He then goes on to correct him: Romani ite domum. The joke is, for Latinists, that 'domum' is not a locative, but accusative of motion towards. The locative would be domi. Still, we need people like that centurion around today. Those pointy-heads at Google have set up a translate function - for Latin. Why, you might ask. I certainly do. So I thought I'd check it out. The first thing I put in was this: draco regem necavit. Translated by me, it means 'the dragon killed the king.' Translated by Google, it comes out as 'killed the king of the dragon.' Weirdly poetic, I grant you, but wrong.

Let's try a longer sentence. Maybe it doesn't deign to do short things.

olim puer quidam et eius soror prope magnam cavernam sunt inventi.

Translated by a mere human, this means:

Once upon a time, a certain boy and his sister were found near a great cave.

Translated by a mighty machine, this comes out as:

a boy, who in times past and the sister of her near the large hole of the are to be found.

A little less than poetic, but more than piffle. So let's try some Ovid on it:

non aliter quam cum vitiato fistula plumbo scinditur et tenues stridente foramine longe eiaculatur aquas atque ictibus aera rumpit.

Your humble human brain gives you this:

Not otherwise than when a pipe with faulty lead breaks, and hissing through the hole there is a long thin water-spurt which breaks the air with its force.

Megabrain Google gives you this:

in no other way than the lead when a pipe with a hissing rent, and the thin hole of the far eiaculatur the waters of the blows, and he breaks into the air

A system that can't recognise consonontal 'i' is obviously faulty.

Even a phrase in common usage, 'ad hominem', comes out as 'to the man of'.

So, endless amusement for Latinists, then, but practical usage for people who actually want to read Latin? I'm afraid there's nothing there. And if you want to do your homework on it - I wouldn't bother.

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