Some time ago I noticed that Google Translator sometimes produces quite useful results – and sometimes the translation just hurts.
Clearly, it would be nice to be read by more people – which means to go for an international audience. On the other hand, a good translation takes time which I don’t want to take away from other tasks – dancing, for example.
There is an engineering method called „Forward Error Correction“ (FEC). The idea is quite simple: If a transport medium has distortive properties which are known, the inverse of this distortion can be imposed on the content sent. Ideally, the net effect will be zero and the content arrives in the originally intended way. This method was, for example, used in the analogue music signal chain to compensate for deficiencies in the record-pickup part of the chain – a reason why the first CD’s sounded „cold“ and awkward because they did not have these deficiencies.
So I spent some time to play with a German text. I ran it through Google Translator and modified it until I was happy with the result – or until I became convinced that further improvement was not possible without fundamental changes in the text. Then I tried to understand which text characteristics made the difference between a good English result and a bad one.
If there is a general finding: Standard sentences work quite well. This is not entirely good news because it means that the original texts will have to give up some flavor. Then, in some cases it appeared impossible for me to create a „automatable“ German sentence (or I reached a dead end and was not able to see a better solution).
Conclusion, so far: It is possible to create text which is still okay in German and needs only moderate optimizations in English. At least so I believe – I kindly invite English readers to give me feedback.
Below are the two texts. The markups in the right column are where I did manual corrections to the text produced by Google Translator.
Unfortunately, I found no way pro preserve the Change Mode markups in the transfer to this post. So I used a print to PDF – sorry for the inconvenience.