Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Babelfish Sparks Minor Diplomatic Row

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the careful-how-you-type-that dept.

It's funny.  Laugh. 331

Stony Stevenson writes with a link to a cautionary tale on the ITnews site. A group of journalists heading to The Netherlands were gathering some information prior to the trip. They sent off an email to the Dutch foreign ministry asking some questions, but as they weren't native speakers they needed some help. Unfortunately, they turned to Babelfish for official correspondence. "The beginning of the email read: 'Helloh bud, enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

The question we're all thinking. (3, Funny)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298125)

Which babelfish are we talking about here?

Re:The question we're all thinking. (5, Insightful)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298173)

Babelfish sparks minor diplomatic row

Morons trusting the legendary untrustworthiness of Babelfish for official work spark minor diplomatic row.

There.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298371)

I saw this yesterday and chuckled a little, but it just raised a bunch of questions for me.

  1. How good a journalist can you be if you trust Babelfish to translate stuff for you?
  2. How could you rely on the answers you got since you'd have to run them through Babelfish also?
  3. Could the interviewees not tell that it was a terrible machine translation? Are you telling me it was all perfect up until that sentence?

The first two are the ones that really puzzle me. Even if it were just a journalist at a high school paper, I would expect them to do better. Go ask for help from the local university or something. Babelfish? Really?

English As She Is Spoke - Twain is Proved WRONG! (4, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298607)

"Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect."
--Mark Twain, on English as She Is Spoke [wikipedia.org]

We have bested the Portuguese masters of muddle! [zompist.com] It took the brilliance of a near-passing grade on the Turing test.

Invisible idiots (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298895)

The legend that "Out of sight, out of mind" translated out of and back into English came out as "invisible idiot" is an ancient one. I expect that about ten thousand people have tried this using Bablefish; for what it's worth, here was my try [sff.net] from about ten years back.

I didn't think to try Dutch to Hebrew, though!

Re:The question we're all thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298933)

journalist is only a title nowadays, the position is strictly a political one.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (4, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298425)

The real hilarity of it is, in the Netherlands, of all places, you can find tons of english speakers. Hell, the people who got the letter probably spoke decent english. Why, in gods name, would you do such an amatuer translation, and not just assume that someone will be able to read it.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (2, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298821)

They should have used the Hungarian phrasebook from Monty Python....

"Ya! Ya! Ya! Ya! Do you waaaaant ... do you waaaaaant ... to come back to my place, bouncy-bouncy?"

Re:The question we're all thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298957)

The real hilarity of it is, in the Netherlands, of all places, you can find tons of english speakers.

So true. I got a phrase book and did some studying before visiting last summer. Never needed it. Just about every Dutch person I met spoke excellent english.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299033)

The real hilarity of it is, in the Netherlands, of all places, you can find tons of english speakers. Hell, the people who got the letter probably spoke decent english. Why, in gods name, would you do such an amatuer translation, and not just assume that someone will be able to read it.


Yeah, I have heard similar stories before, and they always shock me. I mean, I guess it makes sense to try and do a good-faith effort to send a message in the reader's native tongue, but you should always include the source for the translation in the message so that they can have it locally translated if it turns out that your translations is wakfled. I mean, I'd do that even if I was using a human native-speaker to translate, just in case something got mixed up along the way.

To rely on a machine translation without any review by an actual human as the only means of communicating is just shockingly stupid. I mean, the sort of stupid that should get you fired for incompetence in a heartbeat, regardless of the outcome.

I only half remember the last story I heard along these lines, but it was something along the lines of... I think it was Americans trying to send an email to a German software company, so they ran their email through babelfish or something similar, and generated completely uninteligible gibberish. Which slowed things down horribly, considering everybody at the German company spoke fluent English, and they had several native speakers working for the company who could smooth out any in-house translation issues very easily. When the germans sent an email back to the Americans asking what the hell they were talking about, the Americans assumed that the Germans were doing the same thing as them, and that it apparently worked, so they did it again. Then the Germans just called the Americans on the telephone.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (1, Informative)

kryten_nl (863119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299065)

They were translating from Hebrew to English.

Why are these journalists, who should have had _some_ form of education, not able to write English? Is the most relevant question.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (4, Funny)

torako (532270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298601)

Idiots who trust legendary untrustworthiness of Babelfish for the official less important diplomatic file of the work spark. There, I translated it to Dutch and back using Babelfish for some added clarity.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (1)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299123)

That's definitely "news for nerds, material that is important". :)

Re:The question we're all thinking. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298191)

Which babelfish are we talking about here?

Probably the one responsible for All your base are belong to us!!

I foresee a video made of this, it going on as a running joke, it never dying, it finally popping up on slashdot and becoming the latest meme.

OH THE HUMANITY!

Re:The question we're all thinking. (1)

enemorales (1172133) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298443)

The question I was thinking: Did they use babelfish again to turn it back into english?

Re:The question we're all thinking. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298703)

The question I was thinking: Did they use babelfish again to turn it back into english?

Reminds me of silly timewasting things a co-worker used to do: punch stuff in, translate to another language, then translate back. Then he'd laugh his head off at it. Generally, to be that silly, I require considerable sleep deprivation.

Re:The question we're all thinking. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298529)

Which babelfish are we talking about here?
This one: http://babelfish.altavista.com/ [altavista.com]

Re:The question we're all thinking. (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298545)

Yeah didn't the author warn us that the bablefish caused more and bloodier war than anything else?

Re:The question we're all thinking. (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299069)

The one that leaves any untranslated words untranslated. This is probably my biggest beef with babelfish. I think it would be better if it returned the translation with the words it couldn't understand in red or something, or offer a choice of possibilities, based on words that looked the same.

We've got sandy beaches... (-1, Flamebait)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298141)

So, who the fuck wants to see 'em?!

Re:We've got sandy beaches... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298541)

I hope you can appreciate the concern I have for my friend Frankie.

"Helloh Bud" (4, Funny)

baldass_newbie (136609) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298153)

I thought that was a new strain of Dutch hydro at first...
Silly me.

Re:"Helloh Bud" (1)

tiedyejeremy (559815) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298559)

Sounds good to me, too.

Hel-loh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298899)

Annyong [wikipedia.org] !

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298161)

_0_
\''\
'=o='
.|!|
.| |
click here to improve your credit rating [goatse.ch]

Re:SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21299121)

What's that supposed to be? A man with a propeller on his belly-button?

They're only journalists (5, Insightful)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298175)

"How could this email possibly have been sent?" an Israeli diplomat told the Jerusalem Post. "These journalists have sparked a major incident."

How can journalists spark a major diplomatic event?

Re:They're only journalists (4, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298225)

William Randolph Hearst?

Muhammed cartoons?

Watergate?

Mod Parent Up! (3, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298449)

So true! Journalists are a powerful group. They are the eyes and ears of the public and have a tremendous influence on public opinion. The lead up to the war in Iraq. No journalists asked questions, no politicians. Journalists wield the power to shape perception, and perception might as well be reality for most people.

Re:They're only journalists (2, Insightful)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298709)

Most likely the diplomat wanted to feel important for resolving the "major incident".

Re:They're only journalists (5, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299115)

How can journalists spark a major diplomatic event?
Absolutely. I do not believe this story for one single second.

Firstly, diplomats are diplomats because they are smart and non-reactionary. They would not react like this to mails that presumably came from a domain that identified the senders as foreign journalists -- or otherwise identified the journalists as being just that.

In addition to this, (having lived in Holland myself) the Dutch are generally pretty good with the fact that few people speak Dutch. They are also used to dealing in a number of languages, and the sometimes accidental comedy that ensues. It's clear that the senders of this mail were not native speakers -- thus why would anyone overreact?

Truth is -- they wouldn't.

I call Bullshit.

It could have been worse. (0)

UncHellMatt (790153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298195)

My hovercraft was full of eels.

Re:It could have been worse. (1)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298287)

Drop your panties, Sir William, I cannot wait 'till lunchtime.

Re:It could have been worse. (2, Funny)

UncHellMatt (790153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298337)

My nipples explode with DELIGHT!

Re:It could have been worse. (1)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298427)

If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me? I am no longer infected.

Re:It could have been worse. (1)

lawrenlives (991376) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298491)

Purple monkey dishwasher

Re:It could have been worse. (1)

Jerry Rivers (881171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298447)

I would like to fondle your buttox.

The original grammer nazi (5, Funny)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298787)

CENTURION: What's this, then? 'Romanes Eunt Domus'? 'People called Romanes they go the house'?
BRIAN: It-- it says, 'Romans, go home'.
CENTURION: No, it doesn't. What's Latin for 'Roman'? Come on!
BRIAN: Aah!
CENTURION: Come on!
BRIAN: 'R-- Romanus'?
CENTURION: Goes like...?
BRIAN: 'Annus'?
CENTURION: Vocative plural of 'annus' is...?
BRIAN: Eh. 'Anni'?
CENTURION: 'Romani'. 'Eunt'? What is 'eunt'?
BRIAN: 'Go'. Let--
CENTURION: Conjugate the verb 'to go'.
BRIAN: Uh. 'Ire'. Uh, 'eo'. 'Is'. 'It'. 'Imus'. 'Itis'. 'Eunt'.
CENTURION: So 'eunt' is...?
BRIAN: Ah, huh, third person plural, uh, present indicative. Uh, 'they go'.
CENTURION: But 'Romans, go home' is an order, so you must use the...?
BRIAN: The... imperative!
CENTURION: Which is...?
BRIAN: Umm! Oh. Oh. Um, 'i'. 'I'!
CENTURION: How many Romans?
BRIAN: Ah! 'I'-- Plural. Plural. 'Ite'. 'Ite'.
CENTURION: 'Ite'.
BRIAN: Ah. Eh.
CENTURION: 'Domus'?
BRIAN: Eh.
CENTURION: Nominative?
BRIAN: Oh.
CENTURION: 'Go home'? This is motion towards. Isn't it, boy?
BRIAN: Ah. Ah, dative, sir! Ahh! No, not dative! Not the dative, sir! No! Ah! Oh, the... accusative! Accusative! Ah! 'Domum', sir! 'Ad domum'! Ah! Oooh! Ah!
CENTURION: Except that 'domus' takes the...?
BRIAN: The locative, sir!
CENTURION: Which is...?!
BRIAN: 'Domum'.
CENTURION: 'Domum'.
BRIAN: Aaah! Ah.
CENTURION: 'Um'. Understand?
BRIAN: Yes, sir.
CENTURION: Now, write it out a hundred times.
BRIAN: Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. Hail Caesar, sir.
CENTURION: Hail Caesar. If it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off.

Re:It could have been worse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298887)

Bouncy bouncy!

Microsoft speech engine? (2, Funny)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298205)

Are you sure they didn't use some Microsoft based speech engine?

Huh? (4, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298215)

1) Why does anything involving a bunch of journalists have to do with diplomacy?

2) Does the country in question have a stick so far up their colective asses they couldn't laugh this off?

3) Or is the headline total flamebait, and I'm a sucker?

Re:Huh? (2, Interesting)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298481)

2) Does the country in question have a stick so far up their colective asses they couldn't laugh this off?
 
This seems the most likely answer. The text is so amazingly bad that it's obvious to anyone that it's at least a complete mistake, if not also obviously a very bad machine generated translation. It's not like the whole thing was reasonable except for one bad insult about the recipient's mother; the whole dang thing is just blatant nonsense.
 
If your spam filter didn't automatically junk any email addressed to 'Helloh Bud' then you should have the good sense to delete it yourself at that point, nevermind the rest.

Re:Huh? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298603)

1) Why does anything involving a bunch of journalists have to do with diplomacy?

Journalists report the "facts" (bias or not) to a large audicence (tax payers or not).

2) Does the country in question have a stick so far up their colective asses they couldn't laugh this off?

If any comment or criticism can public record, due diligence must be followed.

3) Or is the headline total flamebait, and I'm a sucker?

Most headlines on /. are flamebait. These stories generate comments which in turn generate page views increasing advertising sales and the profits of the people who run /. (et al).

Re:Huh? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298825)

1) Why does anything involving a bunch of journalists have to do with diplomacy?

Reputation. Being nice to journalist (particularly Israeli journalists) makes your government look all enlightened and politically correct.

2) Does the country in question have a stick so far up their collective asses they couldn't laugh this off?

They did laugh this one off. The Dutch government was trying to gussy up its reputation by doing some special favors for (what they thought were) Israeli journalists but then then the "journalists" demonstrated that they were either massively incompetent journalists or not even journalists at all (just some random Israelis trying to score some special favors from the Dutch government). So, rather than special favors, the "journalists" got laughed at.

3) Or is the headline total flamebait, and I'm a sucker?

More of a troll than flamebait but there is a tidbit of real interest here in that the article indirectly examines the current state of computer translation of natural languages.

They didn't apply the babel fish to their ears... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298217)

but apparently another appendage altogether.

What do you expect? (5, Funny)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298231)

They used the "English to Dutch Jive" setting.

Oblig. (5, Funny)

rock217 (802738) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298489)

Jive Lady: Oh stewardess! I speak jive.
Randy: Oh, good.
Jive Lady: He said that he's in great pain and he wants to know if you can help him.
Randy: All right. Would you tell him to just relax and I'll be back as soon as I can with some medicine?
Jive Lady: Jus' hang loose, blood. She gonna catch ya up on da' rebound on da' med side.
Second Jive Dude: What it is, big mama? My mama no raise no dummies. I dug her rap!
Jive Lady: Cut me some slack, Jack! Chump don' want no help, chump don't GET da' help!
First Jive Dude: Say 'e can't hang, say seven up!
Jive Lady: Jive ass dude don't got no brains anyhow! Hmmph!

Re:Oblig. (1)

jgarra23 (1109651) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298587)

someone pls mod parent up as hilarious, Airplane is the greatest movie ever made.

Re:Oblig. (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298743)

It's only truly funny as 'June Cleaver' instead of 'Jive Lady'; nevermind the credits. The dialog is only mildly amusing in that it's spoken by some middle class suburban looking woman but it's hysterical when it's spoken by that specific middle class suburban woman.

Heh (1)

graviplana (1160181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298249)

Well, what can ya do? I'm glad to see that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ich_bin_ein_Berliner [wikipedia.org] has been updated for the Modern Age. Incidentally, it turns out the "Ich bin ein Berliner" isn't actually correct. Germans in Berlin refer to themselves as Berliner regularly. Maybe we need a president more like the jelly donuts of yesterday? Somehow, I've digressed from the topic. I think I need more coffee, and a jelly donut. ;)

That is hilarious.... (0, Troll)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298285)

Nothing like a little searching around... Google for translate and you get a few choices, surely a wise person would check what they were sending?? oops, my bad, these were journalists? Fox news wanna be journalists?

Could be worse... (4, Funny)

Kelson (129150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298299)

At least the words, "I seem to be having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle" didn't drift across the conference table, resonating across time and space.

Makes sense (0)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298319)

It's not as though the Dutch bother to learn 1, or 2, or 3+ foreign languages...I mean, surely we'd have been too occupied with our windmills to be able to read a mail in Engrish ;-)

Re:Makes sense (1)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298513)

TFA mentions some details of the source text that indicates they started out in Hebrew. A likely problem with that (as I understand it) is that since written Hebrew doesn't use vowels, a lot of the interpretation of text is context sensitive, and Babelfish screwed it up.

Having used Babelfish for fun a few times, I've seen it twist the meaning of things fabulously especially when the input and output languages have different grammatical construction. The way to use Babelfish with a little more consideration is to run your text through, then run the output back into your original language and see what you get back. If it's not close to the same meaning... figure out a different way to say it.

For most obscure result, do intermediate translations among languages that have completely different roots, for example: English->Japanese->Spanish->Urdu->Dutch. Bonus for including Hungarian or Finnish, since those languages don't share common roots with any other.

Re:Makes sense (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298599)

Maybe they were attempting to be respectful?
Sure, it failed but it does show they were trying to show some respect.

It's not like this hasn't happened before... (5, Funny)

jspenguin1 (883588) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298327)

Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

Lamentable occurrences have begat dude (2, Funny)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298333)

Regression of palpable anguish forseen within future modification of linguistic tendency laden spoken word.*

* Translated via Babelfish from Dutch Foreign Minister's reply

could have been worse (4, Funny)

Rezazur (677119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298349)

Well, at least they didn't use the Vista speech recognition. That could end up as some MAJOR diplomatic misunderstanding...

Why not ask the questions in English? (1, Informative)

Zedrick (764028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298357)

Most Dutch people speak better English than Dutch (at least according to other Dutch people in neighbouring provinces with a slightly different dialect). I've lived in The Netherlands and I have a Dutch girlfriend since 4 years back, but I can't speak any Dutch - no point in trying since everybody is fluent in English.

Re:Why not ask the questions in English? (1)

Faylone (880739) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298847)

Well, it was Israeli journalists, for one.

Journalists are often not too bright (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298365)

All Dutch and Israelis speak English anyway - this is ridiculous.

Isn't that weeeeird? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298373)

Goldmember: Can I paint his yoo-hoo gold now? It's kind of my thing, you know...
Dr. Evil: How 'bout no, you crazy Dutch bastard!

--------------------
Goldmember: Dr. Evil, we still have the ultimate insurance policy. May I present to you, the very sexual, the very toite, Austin Power's fahza.
Dr. Evil: His what?
Number 2: His fahza, Dr. Evil.
Dr. Evil: His farger? What's a farger?
Goldmember: His fahza. You know, the fahza.
Dr. Evil: You know Goldmember, I don't speak freaky-deaky Dutch. Okay, perv boy?
Goldmember: Fahza, his dad, dad is fahza.
Dr. Evil: Oh, his dad. His *fa-ther*

Old saying... (4, Funny)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298375)

"To err is human, to really screw up, you need a computer."

That said I remember a story I heard once from a neighbour. He was in Moscow for a conference, and in the morning he spilled coffee on his tie. So he was wondering i) where to get a necktie in the morning around the hotel and ii) what the hell the russian word for "necktie" is. He remembered: It was similar to the german word for the same thing. So he just tried, walked over to the nearest kiosque and asked the russian lady: "Kravat?" She was killing him with her stare, and he suddenly realized: kravat = bed. galstukh = necktie.

A more general saying would be (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298823)

"To really screw up, you need humans trying to communicate but in an incompetent manner."

Nearly every computer screw up is just a special case of this general principle, only mediated through the miscommunication of a computer system's requirements and capabilities.

Re:A more general saying would be (4, Insightful)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299105)

Computers are just like greek gods. They are capable, they are omnipotent, they just take everything you demand literally. Basicly computers are just levers mounted to your own incompetence, and they increase hundredfold every mistake you make.

English - do you speak it? (1)

harmonica (29841) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298395)

To me, the Netherlands and Israel are two prime examples of countries known for their high level of English literacy. Why wouldn't they just use English but rely on an automated translator?

The translation was "flawed" (5, Funny)

vux984 (928602) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298407)

FTFA:

The beginning of the email read: 'Helloh bud, enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian.'

The translation was flawed as Babelfish confused 'ha'im', the Hebrew word for 'if', with 'ha'ima', which means 'mother'.


Oh!!! Of course, that makes sense. Lets fix that right up: s/mother/if

Helloh bud, enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The if your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian.

I don't know about you, but I suspect there might be additional flaws.

Re:The translation was "flawed" (1)

wanderingknight (1103573) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298651)

I'm sure the thing is programmed to add a pronoun if it encounters any non=proper noun in isolation. I've seen it before in all kinds of automatic translation software. Along with "mother" you should remove "the" and it will make a *little* more sense. The rest of the sentence remains a mystery though.

The article was "flawed" (1)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298979)

The translation was flawed as Babelfish confused 'ha'im', the Hebrew word for 'if', with 'ha'ima', which means 'mother'.

"ha'ima" actually means "the mother". So, while bablefish may produce errors, apparently so do reporters... Also, IIRC, in non-transliterated Hebrew, the two words are homonyms.

Whole Story is BS (5, Insightful)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299113)

I'm beginning to suspect that the whole story is a hoax.

First off, babelfish doesn't translate Hebrew, and with good reason. Hebrew is hard for a computer to translate. The three letters, Heh Aleph Mem could have just as easily been translated to "the nation" or "the nut" (as in nuts and bolts) as it was to "the mother". The only way to know the correct translation is to know the context of the word, which is not always easy.

Secondly, whomever wrote this hoax doesn't speak Hebrew very well. You don't have to go from "ha'im" to "ha'ima" to get from "if" to "the mother". In fact, the letters Heh Aleph Mem could be read as "ha'im" (if) or "ha'aim" (the mother) without having to add a letter to get all the way to "ha'ima".

Lastly, the Dutch are world-renowned for their extreme tolerance. There is no way a Dutch person would be deeply offended over something like this.

Duh? (0, Redundant)

litewoheat (179018) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298421)

I guess the dipshit journalists didn't realize that most Dutch speak English better than Americans or The British.

Re:Duh? (0, Flamebait)

budgenator (254554) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298685)

Most everybody does.

Re:Duh? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298951)

And in this case, that's about as useful as the Dutch speaking Chinese. RTFA.

This isn't much different than a typical HS Grad. (2, Funny)

tiedyejeremy (559815) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298435)

Sad but true. I've seen too many people who have passed the National Standardized Tests and graduated High School who write about as coherently as what was posted.

Hovercraft (0, Redundant)

Joe Random (777564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298461)

My hovercraft is full of eels.

Re:Hovercraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298897)

My nipples explode with delight.

Summary translated to Dutch and back (2, Interesting)

rhennigan (833589) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298463)

Masonry Stevenson write ITnews with a connection to a warning tale at the place. A group journalists who lead to the Netherlands collected what information before travel. They sent a e-mail to the Dutch foreign ministry putting some questions, but since they were no domestic participants they had one or other aid necessary. Unfortunately, they twisted to Babelfish for official correspondence. The beginning of read e-mail: Included bud Helloh, five of the questions for the ere of the Minister for Foreign Affairs: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the grace or to the bed your opinion on the conflict Israeli palestijn is.

Hitchhiker's Guide (2, Funny)

Volfied (307532) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298503)

Ironically, the "original" Babel Fish was supposed to have caused more and bloodier wars than any other discovery in galactic history because it increased understanding between planets.

proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298525)

Someone please verify this story or else I will take my super karate monkey death car and declare war on the FCC. WAR!

at least (1)

benburned (1091769) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298547)

at least no one has vanished in a puff of logic

Not Babelfish's fault (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298553)

Babelfish didn't 'spark' anything. Idiot journalists did. What's new about that? As Napoleon had said (not exact, as I don't speak Italian or French), one thousand journalists are more dangerous than four trained soldiers.

Well, at least it wasn't... (1)

securityfolk (906041) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298571)

All Your Base Are Belong To Us...

or worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298913)

All your basis is belongs to our...

Re:Well, at least it wasn't... (2, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298961)

All your mother are belong to Israel?

The Dutch Foreign Ministry == incompetent boobs (1)

GnarlyDoug (1109205) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298611)

If these guys got upset over what was obviously either a gag or a bad translation then not only are they stupid, but they're incompetent and humourless as well. They also are generating bad press for their country, and it wasn't even people in official capacity that sent the offending letter. The Dutch Foreign Ministry sounds like they could use some serious downsizing.

Re:The Dutch Foreign Ministry == incompetent boobs (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298637)

The Dutch? Humorless? NO WAY! /sacrasm

this is 6oatsex (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21298639)

else to be an many users of BSD to survive at all end, we nee3 you users. Surprise users of NetBSD

Lost in translation ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298643)

There was an easy way that they could have avoided this problem: have the translator check its own translation by feeding in the translation and having it translated back into the original language. It would have become immediately obvious that the automatic translator doesn't work and that they should hire a real person to do it. Incidentally, a radio show used to run a music contest where they translated English lyrics to some other language and then back into English. The goal was to figure out what the original song was. And it could be quite hard unless you know the song by heart.

Reason for diplomats to have a sense of humor (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298681)

When things like this happen, it would be awesome if you could make light of it. What you really do is bring the journalists in, have a public news conference, and turn it into a small roast.

"I couldn't tell if I was getting an email from Dutch journalists or bankers from Nigeria."

"Mossad was flipping out... they thought this was a death threat from Borat."

"At least they spell better than Bush."

Then you give the journalists a nice gift basket or something, to show it's all in good fun, get some good publicity pictures in shaking hands with them, take them on a tour or something, and then bring them into your office and say "okay lets try that again, this time with a real translator."

double translation (1)

penguinbroker (1000903) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298723)

how did we arrive at the english version that's in tfa. babelfish: dutch -> english? not exactly sure how you can convey dutch grammatical errors in english... smells like trolling. am i missing something here?

Babelfish Doesn't Translate Hebrew (5, Insightful)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298745)

I can't find any Hebrew translation option on the babelfish website [altavista.com] .

Furthermore, in the Jerusalem Post article [jpost.com] , they point to a site babelfish.com, which appears to be a SEO site and doesn't do translations at all.

Compound that with the question of "Why would the Dutch Foreign Ministry care about an email from some random Israeli reporter?", and I'm guessing that this entire story is a hoax.

Yes, I realize that the Jerusalem Post is supposedly a high-quality paper, but the fact that they linked to a site (babelfish.com) that doesn't even do online translations makes me think that this wasn't their most well-researched and well-substantiated work. If this is really causing such a fuss in Holland, how come there is nothing in the Dutch press about this?

in addition, totally unnecessary (2, Interesting)

avi33 (116048) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298753)

The funny thing is, even high school dropouts in the Netherlands are likely to speak English, French, and German quite well (though they often hold back on speaking German for, uh, cultural reasons). They are a stone's throw from countries speaking those languages, and unlike many other places, when they import television shows, they keep the original languages and add the subtitles in Dutch.

Plus the Dutch language is not deep in terms of dimensional vocabulary. While the Eskimos may have 70 words for snow, Dutch probably has one. I remember watching a movie and the English line was something like "the pain doesn't hurt" and the Dutch translation was "Pijn is nicht pijn" - Pain is not pain.

Of course it's very respectful to try to speak someone's language, especially when most of your countrymen (and the rest of the world, generally) don't bother. A diplomatic row? I doubt it.

they didn't finish the proper procedure (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298779)

the situation would have gone like this had everyone just stuck with the script:
  1. dispassionate dry political question

    translated into dutch through babelfish->

  2. middle eastern themed solicitation for sex with your mom

    response from dutch foreign minister->

  3. apoplectic anger, outrage, and a declaration of war by the netherlands on the journalist's home country featuring tactical nukes, biological/chemical weaponry, and deep undercover black ops sabotage

    translated into english through babelfish->

  4. dispassionate dry political answer

there, see? if everyone had just followed through, there would have been no problem

Linked story is wrong (4, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298845)

It couldn't have possibly been Babelfish, since Babelfish doesn't support Hebrew.

It may have been babylon.com [theregister.co.uk] , but this hasn't been confirmed.

babel poetry (1)

xPsi (851544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298859)

"The beginning of the email read: 'Helloh bud, enclosed five of the questions in honor of the foreign minister: The mother your visit in Israel is a sleep to the favor or to the bed your mind on the conflict are Israeli Palestinian.'"
As an English translation of an email in Dutch orginally written in Hebrew but translated through babel fish, it sounds more like they consulted Ali G or Miss South Carolina Teen USA. I wonder if it has the same impact in Dutch...

Please! Get over yourself. (1)

GeekZilla (398185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298883)

FTFA: "How could this email possibly have been sent?" an Israeli diplomat told the Jerusalem Post. "These journalists have sparked a major incident."

Get real. If you are so shallow and thin skinned as to take offense at what is obviously a mistake in translation then you really need to re-think your career choice. "Diplomat"? How about "ass-hat". As for the journalists who were too lazy to get a proper translation (or at least to include the English text of the email), you need to Grok the phrases, "attention to detail" and "due diligence". I recommend my new book that will be hitting the store shelves soon: "How not to look like a total ass-clown in written correspondence".

Let's spice it up a LOT! (1)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298967)

That translation from English to Chinese-Trad, back to English, to Dutch, to French, to Portugese, to English, to Russian, back to English, to Greek, to French, to German, to English:

The Helloh button honours the memory of 5 questions dlinniy the Minister the strangers of affairses: The nut/mother will be your attendance enevolencesschlaf in Israel, or at the bed your conflict brain will be Palestinian israeliano

I'd definitely say there are bigger problems here.

Babelfish has no Hebrew (0, Redundant)

nlaporte (116203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21298975)

Has anyone else noticed that the Babelfish site [altavista.com] doesn't actually list Hebrew as a choice? This makes the whole thing a little fishy-sounding (pun intended) to me.

In keeping with the standards... (0, Offtopic)

NavyTim (1060580) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299017)

they quickly blamed the Bush Administration for the errors.

Shouldnt the title say lazy office workers... (1)

keirre23hu (638913) | more than 6 years ago | (#21299041)

cause diplomatic row... because I don't recall Babelfish (or any other free online translation s/w) claiming to be 100% accurate or anything like that. Dutch is not so rare you cannot find someone who can translate (perhaps for a fee).
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?