A friend of mine was reading a story that was translated into English by babelfish from either Spanish or some Asian language, and it happened that in translating a group of words for a sexual phrase of some kind, it came up with the following translation:
You have to go through many iterations to get real poetry. Also, with a little experience, you get to know what languages produce what kind of distortions. Here’s your phrase going through various European languages:
English - French - Greek - English - Dutch - French - English:
Throwing Asian languages into the mix:
(English - Chinese - English - Japanese - English - Korean - English)
Okay, I added the line breaks, and played with the punctuation, but if that ain’t poetry I don’t know what is.
I have long enjoyed typing song lyrics into BabelFish, “translating” them into French and back, and attempting to sing the results with friends (note: this is best when done considerably after midnight, and I’d imagine drugs/alcohol wouldn’t hurt, though I wouldn’t know). From what I can tell, the English-to-French isn’t half bad as long as you don’t use idioms, but the French-to-English (or anything-to-English, for that matter) is crap in a hat. Personally, I would’ve thought it’d be the other way around – I can translate French into proper-sounding English with a lot more confidence than the other way around – but I guess not. Just as well, though; it makes for some quality entertainment.