Automated translation fail

Automated translations of Facebook posts are meant to help, but one I’ve just read was inaccurate or incoherent or both. Among other things, it translated 아들아! (a-deul-a), a standard vocative which might be translated as ‘hey, son!’) as ‘You son of a bitch!’. There are multiple references to “father” and “son”, but it from the English translation it is impossible to tell whether the writer is talking about his father and son, himself and his father (referring to himself as “son”), himself and his son (referring to himself as “father”) or someone else’s father and son etc. There was just enough coherence to know that he was not talking about fathers and sons in general, or about God the Father and God the Son, which would otherwise be two more possibilities.

(For the record, “You son of a bitch!” in Korean is 너 개자식! (neo gae-ja-sik). I am not only relying on a translator for that; I did ask a native speaker (not by saying it to them directly!). Don’t rely on translation tools for insults.)

Advertisements

‘The cleverest person alive’

Today’s chapter of the textbook focused on ‘brain games’, IQ tests and genius of the past and now. As an example of the latter, it said:

Kim Ung-Yong, who is generally regarded as the cleverest person alive, has an IQ of 210. He was made famous when he appeared on Japanese TV at the age of four, solving complex mathematical problems. He attended university between the ages of four and seven, and at the age of eight, he was invited to the USA to join NASA. At the age of 16, he chose to return to Korea, because he missed his mother!

I had never heard of him, despite a general interest in ‘brain games’, IQ tests and geniuses of the past and now, and neither had a Korean student and my wife, so he’s not even famous in Korea. I searched for his name and got his photo and other information, and … Guess Who Else’s photo crops up in a search for the name of ‘the cleverest person alive’? I tried this on two major search engines on three computers at work and at home, and got the same result.

Guess, or maybe try it yourself.

Continue reading

South Korean public holidays

Some South Koreans and many foreigners working there have just started a 10-day extended holiday, due to a conjunction of three public holidays. Most of Korea’s public holidays are dated using the modern international solar calendar, but three are dated using the traditional Korean lunar calendar, which means that they jump around in the solar calendar like Easter. In addition, two of the traditional holidays (lunar New Year and lunar Thanksgiving) attract three-day holidays, which can extend to five depending on where the day itself falls in the week (ideally Tuesday or Thursday).

Continue reading

have

My house (1) has a bath and shower and I (2) have a bath or shower every day. I (3) have to have a bath or shower every day. My previous apartment also (4) had a bath and shower and I (5) had a bath or shower every day. I (6) had to have a bath or shower every day. This was a good thing because my first apartment (7) had had only a shower and I (8) had had a shower every day. I (9) had had to have a shower every day.

Most of that is made up to illustrate a grammar point, namely the various uses of the verb have as an auxiliary verb, a main verb, a catenative verb and an ‘extra verb’.

Continue reading

Ugly congratulations

Yesterday my wife posted birthday greetings in English on Facebook. One of her friends wrote something in Korean which Facebook automatically translated as ‘Ugly [smiley face]’. ‘Congratulations’ in Korean is 축하해요 (chuk-ha-hae-yo) normally and 축하합니다 (chuk-ha-ham-ni-da) formally. The verb ‘[subject] am/is/are ugly’ is 추해요. An unaspirated stop like ㄱ followed by a ㅎ is always pronounced as the corresponding aspirated stop, in this case ㅋ, so 축하해요 is pronounced 추카해요, which is what the friend actually wrote. Facebook’s translator (and Google Translate when I experimented) interpreted 추 as the verb stem of ‘ugly’ and ignored the 카, which is meaningless if 추 is interpreted as ‘ugly’. It also ignored the verb conjugation.

PS I asked my wife about this. She said that people sometimes write 추카해요 in text messages or social media posts, but 축하해요 is definitely the correct spelling, and people would never write 추카해요 in any formal context.

C’mon, it’s only 16 years ago!

Oh now I feel old! The topic in the textbook was science, and as a filler I showed the students some science-related movie trailers, starting with the ‘based on a true story’ movies Hidden figures, The theory of everything and The right stuff. Then I showed some science fiction, starting with 2001: A space odyssey. I said ‘How many of you remember 2001’? I was expecting a few hands. I don’t know how old my students are, but I would guess late 20s or even early 30s for some of them. (Others are much younger, possibly late teens or early 20s.) No-one (but me) remembers 2001???? At least they could have said ‘Oh, that was the year I started school’ (as indeed one of my nieces said when I posted on Facebook about this later.)

Then I showed them Back to the future 1 & 2, and 1989’s imagining of 2015 made much more sense to them than 1968’s imagining of 2001. (In general, BttF got more right than 2001.) Along the way I found 10 Things Back to the Future 2 Got Right, 10 Things Back to the Future 2 Got Wrong and a parody by CollegeHumor made in 2015 with the benefit of nowsight. I also tried to find the American talk/comedy show which snared Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd as guests on 21 October 2015, but I couldn’t find it and couldn’t remember whose show it was on. A Facebook friend later told me it was Jimmy Kimmel.

Continue reading

Merry birthday

I have a friend who habitually writes ‘merry birthday’ on our mutual friends’ Facebook pages (and mine, when it comes around). There’s nothing grammatically or semantically wrong with ‘merry birthday’, but it just sounds so weird. An internet search returns approx 353,000,000 results for ‘happy birthday’ and 2,650,000 for ‘merry birthday’, so it’s by no means unknown, but used less than one percent as much as ‘happy birthday’. Some of those are references to people whose birthday falls near Christmas. (I know two people born on Christmas Day. One is named Christa. I also know a father and daughter born on leap day.)

Google Ngrams shows many results for ‘happy birthday’ and ‘merry Christmas’ (of course). ‘Happy Christmas’ is used about 1/6th as much as ‘merry Christmas’ but ‘merry birthday’ yields only one result.

In the course of my research, I found this short extract (from a movie I watched more than 20 years ago, but didn’t remember this scene). The Wikipedia page for the movie says that the song was written for this movie ‘to avoid potential licensing issues’ (ie paying royalties to Warner/Chappell, at the time – for more information, see here).

(For thoughts about the song in Korean, see here.)

(PS after I posted this, the friend wished me a ‘happy birthday’ this year.)