Thursday, February 6, 2014

New Toy

As some of you may (or may not) have noticed, I have a "thing" for languages other than English. It's not a talent I developed at a young age. Studying French in junior high (what's called "middle school" these days) was intensely painful.

And it's not that my teacher was bad, she was absolutely brilliant. She and I both recognized early on that what I really wanted to study as a foreign language was German. But in my early years, German was not available. Only French. C'est dommage!

But eventually German was offered (in high school) and I went from speaking execrable French to quite passable German.

My French is better now (though it's quite possible I still speak it with a German accent, a story I've told before, here and here.) My German was quite good when I lived in Germany. Probably because it was a NATO assignment and I worked with a number of Germans, I was able to practice it nearly every day. And it was fun speaking German with my German colleagues, especially when we would chat about the never-ending procession of American Air Force captains (O-3 for you nautical types) who knew enough to be dangerous but not enough to be useful.

At any rate, I love languages. Some more than others.

It has been said that German is a harsh, guttural language. And their point is? Well, compared to French it is. In fact compared to any of the Romance languages it is. Heck, English is pretty guttural compared to say Italian. After all, English is classed as a Germanic language. While English has picked up any number of words from French and other languages, at its roots its nearest relative is German.

After all, it's where English picked up any number of odd spellings where some letters seem superfluous. Night, for instance. It's pronounced "nite", not "niggit". What the heck do we need those superfluous letters "g" and "h" for? Well, in German, the same word is nacht. All the letters are pronounced, so it sounds just like it looks.

The famous Monty Python bit about "single English ka-niggits", "knight" in English is related to knecht in German. Yes, that initial "k" is pronounced, so you get "ke-necht". There are other examples, though I won't bore you with them. Not today at any rate.

So where am I going with this language business? Well, once upon a time I "discovered" Google Translate. It wasn't lost or unknown or anything, I just didn't know it existed. While Columbus didn't really discover America (I know, I know, it was the Vikings) no one really believed it existed. Columbus didn't know it existed. He sort of ran into it while sailing to the Indies (what we would call Asia now-a-days). After all, the aboriginal people who lived here knew the Americas existed. (Though they didn't call it that.) Oh dear, I see I've digressed...

Yes, Google Translate. A few days ago I welcomed a new member to the blog. A Portuguese lady who has a very nice blog of her own. Which is entirely in Portuguese. A language which I don't speak much. (Okay, as of right now, one word, "thank you", obrigado.)

I was reading her posts by pasting them into Google Translate. Until today when I realized, she had one of these "thingies" (Google likes to call them "gadgets" and as an American male, I love gadgets) near the top of her blog:
It's a gadget we Blogger types can add to our blogs so folks who don't speak our language can translate it (somewhat reliably) to their own. Said gadget has been added to this blog (all the way forward [note: forward = top], starboard side). It's very nice.

Note that I said "somewhat reliably". While computer translations of human languages have gotten a lot better, sometimes things don't translate directly into another language. I have tried putting some things in Korean which upon checking the result were simply the English words reproduced using the Korean alphabet. Also, I should note, it doesn't cover the myriad of languages we humans speak. But it covers quite a few. For instance:

My apologies to all the speakers of Scots Gaelic who can't translate this blog into that marvelous language. (A language spoken by a large chunk of my ancestry.)

But all in all, Google Translate isn't bad. At least it gives you an idea of what the blog author is talking about. And according to my statistics, while the predominant audience for Chant du Départ is English-speaking, there are others "out there" taking an interest.

While I felt all "international" and "global" when M D Rogue (Ditos & Escritos) joined the blog, I realized, thanks to her, that now I could make this place more accessible to the non-Anglophones out there.

No, no, it's not a shameless ploy to attract more readers and get more hits!

(Well, it is. A little...)

  !ألف ألف اعتذار يا أصدقائي


  1. I thought I had a large Russian audience, too, until I realized they were all spambots.

  2. Is Kannada (in between Javanese and Khmer) what they speak up there in Toronto, Montreal, Medicine Hat, Moosejaw, and places similar? Mayhap I should get that translate widget too, coz I know I have a few readers from Canuckistan.

    1. ಇಲ್ಲ, ನಿಜವಾಗಲೂ. ಭಾರತ ಥಿಂಕ್.


  3. I used to think knowing other languages would come in handy and this was the case with French. However, as I went around the world, I noted that everybody I wanted to talk to spoke English. As I looked further out I noted that all the aliens in the universe, past, present and future, also speak English, so I figured, the hell with other languages...

    1. I actually met the only guy in the Netherlands who couldn't speak English or German or French. My Dutch buddy told me that his Dutch wasn't very good either.

      While stationed in Korea I had students corral me a number of times to practice their English.

      Germans, being sticklers for precision and detail, will hesitate to speak English for fear of not "sounding right". I could usually convince them that my Deutsch was much worse than their English. A real ice breaker that!

  4. I've always been a specialist in English (in other words, a dope when it comes to learning other languages.) I've taken three years of high school Spanish, a half-year each of French and German, and two years of Latin. Taken all together, they are the main reason why I almost repeated both 7th grade and 9th grade. For all my study, I know a handful of words from each (and the largest sentence I can string together is French, but I learned that from a song - Voulez vous coucher avec moi, c'est soir?) So, while I applaud your efforts at international diplomacy, my heart of hearts wants the entire world to speak English.

    Yes, I'm a selfish son of a gun.

    1. Hahaha!

      (Odd, but Google Translate has difficulty with the phrase gitchi, gitchi ya ya here. So that's not French?)

  5. Sarge,
    I see the verbage "I speak your language", but it doesn't appear to be a hyperlink or to do anything. I'm using Google Chrome.

  6. Well, that sucks. It's not working for me right now either.

    It worked earlier on my work laptop (which is a finicky POS) but would cut in and out. I used Chrome as well. It was working earlier tonight. Damn, I betcha those yahoos at Google are playing with the code. (Hhmm, how could they be "yahoos" if they work for Google?)

    Played with it a bit, now the sumbitch only works in "preview" mode. Which you guys can't see. I think Google will be getting a harshly worded missive from me!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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