Thursday, September 08, 2011

Why the world needs translation editors

Or, why Google language tools are not always the best.

Many years ago, I had dinner with my father in a restaurant in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montréal. I had bouillabaisse, a French fish stew that originated in Marseille. It was so delicious, I remembered that meal for years. So, when I Googled a recipe for it a few years ago, the first few pages returned were in French. I figured that a French recipe for a French dish would be the most authentic. However, I didn't read French that well back then, and hit the button on the page which translated the recipe into 'English'.

The translation was about as good as the English instructions for a Japanese VCR circa 1988. Here are some excerpts:

"Subtle dish with the many fish species which cook together to release us their different taste and particular perfume, to make a success of it it is essential to rigorously respect the order and the time of cooking of fish, if not parks with a pulp dull full with stop!"

Um, OK. I'll respect the cooking order. Because you know I don't want it to parks with a pulp dull full stop. That would be bad. I think.

"To make partly cooked, potatoes to the vapor, and to keep them with the heat. They will be cut in 4 sections each one and will be added during cooking. To put 8 semi hollow or hollow plates and a large hollow dish to heat."

Great! A chance to use the hollow plates. I hardly ever use those.

"In a pot, to make a bed with white onions thin slices, the crushed cloves of garlic, crushed tomatos, the bay tree, fennel and the bark of orange."

I'm not sure there's room enough in the pot for a bay tree.

"If need be, to add a little soup or water for just to cover fish, and to let cook 10 minutes. Your Bouillabaisse is ready to be useful, and like the soufflés, it could not wait."

I'm *so* glad the bouillabaisse is ready to be useful. Maybe it could vacuum the living room. Or fold some laundry.

"For the service, to present fish and their trimming of potatoes in the large hollow dish, the soup, the sections of toast rubbed with garlic, and garlic mayonnaise and rust with share. To pour a little soup in its plate, to deposit sections of bread pasted of rust or garlic mayonnaise and to taste there various fish with soup, rust or garlic mayonnaise with its own way. "

I'm totally lost with this one. Not sure I want to eat rust. And the mayonnaise sounds kinda pushy, wanting its own way.

I ended up making lasagna instead. But next time I'm in Montréal....


  1. This made me cry half my work makeup off laughing. Damn you and your pot full of bay tree!

  2. Personally, I think the bay tree and rust just make the dish.

  3. Maven - Sorry. Could I buy you a coffee to make up for it?

    Jazz - Doesn't the bay tree make it just a bit, I don't know, chewy?

  4. I could totally use a useful bouillabaisse. Do you think you could send it down my way, please? I'd like for it to mop the kitchen and pick up the toy room.

  5. Betcha a bay tree would make it super high fibre. But it might make a hole in your - oh, never mind, your plate's hollow anyway.

  6. Hilarious! I could really use more meals around here that are ready to be useful. Stupid lazy food on stupid non-hollow plates.

  7. Anonymous8:33 PM

    How do you sleep at night with all the barking oranges?

    I'd be too tired to cook.


  8. This makes me want to translate some more recipes :-)

  9. crazy! but very funny,loved the bark of an orange bit.

  10. I finally know what I have been doing wrong in the kitchen:
    "if not parks with a pulp dull full with stop!"
    I never knew, so thank you for the great tips!
    Hilarious :)

  11. That is hilarious! I've never used the tool but now I'm tempted to find something that needs translating just for a laugh.