Some Comedy Translation

If you’ve been reading this blog much at all, you may have noticed a link in the sidebar “En Français S.V.P. !”. This invokes Google Translate on the current page, and from there as you follow links, you get translations of the linked pages.

Just today I tried out this feature so see if it still worked. When in the French translation, I happened to go to our Products page that lists typefaces of metal type that I can cast. I got a good laugh when I saw the first few face names translated:

Audacieux du 20ème siècle 20th Century Bold
Extraordinaire du 20ème siècle 20th Century ExtraBold
Extrabold Condensed du XXe siècle 20th Century ExtraBold Condensed
Lumière du 20ème siècle 20th Century Light
Médium du XXe siècle 20th Century Medium
Condensé moyen du XXe siècle 20th Century Medium Condensed
20e siècle ultra audacieux 20th Century Ultra Bold
Condensé ultra-audacieux du 20e siècle 20th Century Ultrabold Condensed

I found it amusing that “bold” and “extrabold” were essentially translated in their non-typographical meanings, even though “extrabold” is not even a word. I found it interesting that “Extrabold Condensed” didn’t really get translated at all, even though the two words individually were translated elsewhere. I also found it interesting that “20th” sometimes translated into Arabic numerals and sometimes into roman numerals.

The pages aren’t great translations; I suspect that text written using any technical terms, in particular terms that have other meanings in common usage, is difficult to translate properly. In this page it is clear that “type” and “face” are translated with their common English meanings. Improving this would require the translator to identify the subject matter by examining the text overall, perhaps noticing words (like “typeface”) which are unique to that subject.

I still hope they’re useful to a francophone with limited knowledge of English.

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