When I started this blog I just looked up a few words to pick what I thought would be an appropriate name. Did I mention (of course, just kidding) I don’t speak any Spanish. But after months of working on my project I’ve learned a few things as I’ve been analyzing thousands of machine translations by either Google or Microsoft.
Here’s an interesting “mistake” that led to some study and then a part of my point in this post:
Vino perfectamente límpido y transparente. Es un factor que tiene que ver con la juventud del vino. Atravesado por la luz parece brillar.
It came perfectly limpid and transparent. It is a factor that has to do with the youth of wine. Pierced by the light seems to shine.
Translating vino as ‘it came’ is strange (but occurs frequently in the wine vocabulary I’m compiling now). Recalling the familiar saying of Julius Caesar (veni vidi vici or I came, I saw, I conquered) is the clue. The Spanish for ‘to come’ is venir and the conjugation for third person singular past tense is, ta-da, vino! So, in fact, ‘it came’ is a completely reasonable (but wrong) translation. Obviously given I’m looking at lots of definitions of wine terms, vino in this context is, of course, wine. So much for context sensitivity in machine translations.
But the point which I learned by just some brief reading about syntax of Spanish is that most verbs are regular in their conjugations and so pronouns can be deduced unambiguously and thus are usually omitted.
So mistake #1. Yo is unneeded and I should have solely used traduzco (the first person singular present tense of traducir (to translate).
Mistake #2 is a bit less obvious. Yes, comida can mean ‘food’ which was my intent. But in Spain it can also mean lunch which definitely is not my intent. And it can also mean ‘meal’ (the act of eating, not the food itself) which is a bit better. In fact the authoritative dictionary of Spanish, the Diccionario de la Lengua Española from Real Academia Español has five meanings for comida.
Now really my project is to construct a robust translation tool for menus in Spain. The Spanish menú is too close to English and thus wasn’t Spanish-y enough for me and so I picked comida instead (plus I wasn’t quite sure how to get the ú in the blog name at WordPress).
So traduzcomenú would be a better name but now it’s too late to change. It’s probably fair that the name I chose doesn’t make sense and thus a clue to a true Spanish speaker how clueless I am. Not a good start if I’m claiming I’m going to build a really good translation tool.
Oh well, live and learn.