Language quiz

Today’s language quiz is slightly different from the usual recordings. Instead your challenge is to try to guess what the text below said before it was ‘babelized’.

It will not be shown blind.
Deaf or hearing
Pool of people can not talk about.

I wrote the original text in English, than translated it between 15 different languages and English using Google Translate. The languages were Albanian, Arabic, Chinese, Georgian, Irish, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, Swahili, Thai, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh and Yiddish.

15 thoughts on “Language quiz

  1. I back tracked the translation following list of languages but the end result was just as nonsensical so I’d guess what you originally started out with is something like a riddle:
    ‘It can’t be seen or heard …’?

  2. Is this text you found in the real world somewhere, or just something you made up?

  3. Did you translate it first from English to Albanian, then from Albanian to Arabic, and so on, with the final step being from Yiddish to English?

    My guess about the original text: “What can’t be seen or heard, it can’t be spoken about.”

  4. Usually, such nonsensical translations are normal and quite familiar for us when we translate from Arabic into English. For this reason, it is better to just translate a word at a time and, depending on your skill, formulate the sentence!

  5. Prase – I translated it from English to Albanian, then back again, then from English to Arabic and back again, and so on.

    PM – the text is one I made up, though the first line might exist as a saying.

    Each line has the same structure in the original.

  6. Jurčík: Forvo Translator uses the Google Translate API, so I don’t see how it could be any better.

    In my experience, at least with some languages, Google translates between too languages via English. I don’t remember the sentence or the source language, but I once tried to get a translation into Finnish. The sentence contained the verb form “saw” (past tense of “to see”) but it turned up in Finnish as “saha”, which is the serrated tool also called “saw” in English. The source language couldn’t have mixed up these words, so that’s when I stopped trying to get translations into anything but English. Of course they might have changed the behaviour since.

  7. Well, tried to “reverse engineer” the thing and this is what I got!

    It will not be blind.
    Deaf or hearing
    Can be collected from people not to talk about.

    sounds like a riddle into a riddle to me! 🙂

  8. The original text was:

    Blind are those who will not see.
    Deaf are those who will not hear.
    Dumb are those who will not speak.

    The first line comes from Act V, Scene XII of Minna Von Barnhelm or The Soldier’s Fortune (Minna von Barnhelm oder das Soldatenglück), by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), a play first performed on 30th September 1767. The line goes, “Look at it first! Oh! how blind are those who will not see!” or in the original German, “So besehen Sie ihn doch erst!—Oh, über die Blinden, die nicht sehen wollen!”. I made up the other lines myself.

    This might have been a bit too tricky. Perhaps I should have chosen a well-known text.

  9. Yes, Simon, I think that’d be helpful. Otherwise it can end up a bit like my first game of charades — when I was 6-7 years old, at a friend’s birthday party or something — where I didn’t know the convention that you had to pick a well-known phrase or title. No one was getting anywhere with my puzzle! (Fortunately the mother in attendance caught on, and quietly clued me in.)

    BTW it might amuse you to see what I did with “Ice Ice Baby” (aka “Child of the Ice of the Ice”) in the late 1990s using Altavista’s machine translator Babelfish, to go from English to Italian and back again:

    “You have arrested yourselves?” and “Cooking MC’s appreciate one pound of filled with smoke bacon” still bring the giggles after all these years. (I first posted it in 2005, but originally did it in 1998 or so.)

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