Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How Are Russians Reading my English by Google, if so? And What About Tower of Babel?

When I used google translate to translate a passage of the Coran - one I happen not to find objectionable, unlike much else in it - the French result of Arabic input was more or less gibberish.

I think this could explain why someone using Google Translate for Arabic output could also find the resulting Arabic gibberish. But I also said, this could happen with Russian or Ukrainean too. So, let's test it.

First, I verify, is Russian or Ukrainean really relevant, do I have readers there? Yes : 10 Jan 2018 10:00 – 17 Jan 2018 09:00 : Italy 144 United States 98 Ukraine 47 France 41 Russia 21 China 10 United Kingdom 9 Indonesia 8 Algeria 7 South Korea 7. (This blog).

Next, let's chose a text which will not blaspheme if translated very badly (even if a machine translation translating badly can't blaspheme the Bible, just show the limits of the machine):

Genesis 11:1-9
Douay Rheims
And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech.
And when they removed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Sennaar, and dwelt in it.
And each one said to his neighbour: Come, let us make brick, and bake them with fire. And they had brick instead of stones, and slime instead of mortar.
And they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven: and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands.
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Adam were building.
And he said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue: and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed.
Come ye, therefore, let us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another's speech.
And so the Lord scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city.
And therefore the name thereof was called Babel, because there the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all countries.

Russian Synodal Version
На всей земле был один язык и одно наречие.
Двинувшись с востока, они нашли в земле Сеннаар равнину и поселились там.
И сказали друг другу: наделаем кирпичей и обожжем огнем. И стали у них кирпичи вместо камней, а земляная смола вместо извести.
И сказали они: построим себе город и башню, высотою до небес, и сделаем себе имя, прежде нежели рассеемся по лицу всей земли.
И сошел Господь посмотреть город и башню, которые строили сыны человеческие.
И сказал Господь: вот, один народ, и один у всех язык; и вот что начали они делать, и не отстанут они от того, что задумали делать;
сойдем же и смешаем там язык их, так чтобы один не понимал речи другого.
И рассеял их Господь оттуда по всей земле; и они перестали строить город.
Посему дано ему имя: Вавилон, ибо там смешал Господь язык всей земли, и оттуда рассеял их Господь по всей земле.

Google Translate
English from Russian
All over the earth there was one language and one dialect.
Moving from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
And they said one to another, Let us make bricks and burn them with fire. And they began to have bricks instead of stones, and earth resin instead of lime.
And they said, Let us build ourselves a city and a tower, which is high up to the heavens, and make ourselves a name, before we are scattered about the face of the whole earth.
And the LORD went down to see the city and the tower that the sons of men built.
And the LORD said, Behold, one people, and one tongue all; and that's what they began to do, and they will not leave behind what they planned to do;
Let us go down and mix their language there, so that one does not understand the speech of the other.
And the Lord scattered them from thence throughout all the earth; and they stopped building the city.
Therefore the name is given to him: Babylon, for there the Lord confused the language of all the earth, and from there the Lord scattered them throughout all the earth.

Note well, the Russian synodal version mistranslates verse 4. The google translate to English was not a mistranslation by machine.

The LXX, which would seem to be the original for Synodal version, does not make the same fault, it has καὶ πύργον οὗ ἡ κεφαλὴ ἔσται ἕως τοῦ οὐρανοῦ - and a tower, of which the top is into the heaven. This is consistent with the tower being a rocket and the top being step 3. The Russian Synodal translation does not translate these words literally, and its choice of interpretation is basically a "skyscraper" or possibly a skyline - which connects to two patristic interpretations of what the object was, but disconnects from the at least Augustinian (as well as Hebrew) interpretation of what it was for.

As to verse 9, I don't think Babylon need be considered a mistranslation.

Nimrod can have named Göbekli Tepe Bab-Ilu - gate of gods - just as successors of his named a city further south so. If Nimrod meant Babel as a quest to get to heaven by local motion in our mortal bodies, I think rockets make more sense than skyscrapers, even back then. And Bab-Ilu would have been a fitting name.

The point is, he would have succeeded with a rocket as badly as Leonardo if he had tried his own prototype airplanes. But Uranium as rocket fuel is not such a joke as one man falling from a tall house in a heavy box of wood with useless wings.

God preserved him from even trying, by making him incapable of communicating with his workforce. Imagine Putin at Sotchi and him asking a question and getting an answer like "yo no comprendo" because the other guy has by divine fiat started speaking Spanish instead of Russian. That is what happened to Nimrod, happily enough.

Why does the Bible translate so much better on google translate than the Coran? It is very simple syntax, very unrhetorical.

Not laden with figures of speech that don't correspond when translated (that said, where the Bible has a figure of speech, it is probably part of the culture of English or French already, unlike those in the Coran).

I might hope my prose translates better than the Coran, but I think it probably translates worse than the Bible. It is more rhetoric and more complex, therefore more sensitive to bungling translations.

This is one reason why I think Russians have been thinking my English is bad (even here, while it is understandable, the English is clumsier than Douay Rheims, like a foreigner retelling parts in children's language - especially "mix their language", though probably or at least possibly one method God could have used : mixing the Hebrew already there with a "sound change applier" or sth, and also mixing word meanings. But probably not the only one, though that could explain the existance of Semitic or Afro-Asiatic language family.

By the way, let's see if Ukrainean translates verse 4 better?

І сказали вони: Тож місто збудуймо собі, та башту, а вершина її аж до неба. І вчинімо для себе ймення, щоб ми не розпорошилися по поверхні всієї землі.

And they said: "Let us build a city for us, and a tower, and its summit up to heaven." And we shall make a name for ourselves, that we may not be scattered on the surface of all the earth.

Ah, yes, it does. "and its summit up to heaven". Step 3 is the summit of a three step rocket.

Hans Georg Lundahl
Nanterre UL
St. Anthony the Great

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