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Category: DealMac

68. I see things written on Dealmac in foreign languages. When I try to translate them on the internet, all I get is gobbledygook. Why?

Internet translation, and, by extension, machine translation via software, is very limited in its abilities. Accurate translation still requires the most powerful computer on the face of the planet: the human brain.
Languages are composed in such a way that individual words, while they might have many meanings as a separate utterance, change depending upon the situation in which they are used and the place that they have in the phrase or sentence in which they are used. These concepts are called context and syntax. Languages differ in syntactical and contextual aspects to a great degree.
Moreover, languages have idiomatic expressions, things that make no sense whatsoever outside the cultural context of the language. For example, to break up with someone in Spanish, and only in some countries, at that, is "to throw a pumpkin at them." What does "heads up!" mean to a truly non-native beginning speaker of English? With at least two possibilities, and both of them contextually oriented, the odds are... not much.
Colloquialisms, or slang words, also fail to pass through accurately translated because of machine limitations. Context, itself, plays a large rôle in the way that a words passes from standard use to colloquial use. It is the human brain, with its retained memories and cultural awareness, that allows such translations to be made.
Other factors difficult for machine translators to understand are grammatical concepts such as mood and clauses, especially adverbial and dependent clauses.
Mood, contrary to what you might think, has nothing to do with sadness or happiness. Instead, it is the ability of a verb, or a verbal or adverbial expression, to mark certain things that are said, because they may be contrary to fact, or because they may not have happened yet, or because they may evoke a strong emotional response on the part of the speaker. This presence of mood exists in English for some of these reasons, but not for others, and not for the same ones as in other languages. In other languages, it doesn't exist at all.
It should be sufficient to say that machine translation for anything you might happen to read in Dealmac simply won't do the trick. Your best bet is to simply ask the person privately what was said. Nine times out of ten it'll be a private joke that won't make any sense to you anyway, or something that has been cheekily expressed in such a way that only few, if any, know its meaning.
Hope that helps somewhat.
- Furious, your resident linguist.


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