Sunday, 18 January 2009

And here endeth the lesson...

For those in Britain who lament the 'dumbing down' of the education system...

A French friend's brother is an English professor in a French state school teaching 13-14 year olds. The other day he was lamenting the widespread use of internet translations by his pupils. Apart from being lazy and not particularly instructive electronic translations are notoriously unreliable and he was spending hours trying to make sense of homework.

One of his class had submitted an essay on British popular music containing the phrase: 'Elton John collaborated on by helped made green'. What on earth, he pondered, did this nonsense mean? Our friend's brother scratched his head and fretted over the essay for hours. He got on his computer and reversed the search putting: 'Elton John collaborated on by helped made green' into the English to French translation engine. That did not make any sense either. The whole thing became something of a mental challenge.

Suddenly there was an Eureka moment. Of course: 'Elton John collaborated on by helped made green' meant 'Elton John collaborated on Aida by Verdi'. The search engine had taken 'Aida' as a conjugation of 'aider' meaning 'to help' and 'Verdi' as a form of 'verdir' meaning 'to turn green'. Obvious really.

7 comments:

A Woman Of No Importance said...

This is horrifying and yet funny, but hardly surprising, given how literate our youths are with the Internet, etc - I have occasionally used the likes of Babelfish, with languages I don't profess to understand, and results are shocking!

Perhaps there is a niche for a business for our darling Parisgirl for those lazy etudiants - Online translations, couldn't beat the Aida Verdi one!!!

Henry the Dog said...

Mum says that using those sites can be hazardous. She tends to steer clear.

Stinking Billy said...

michelle, you have to laugh, admit it! ;-) xx

Iota said...

Ah, so they won't be replacing humans entirely with computers just yet, then.

bevchen said...

That's actually quite amusing. And also reassuring, for me (I am a translator.. well, almost) - at least I know computers won't be replacing me anytime soon ;-)

The Dotterel said...

Lovely! Reminds me of the little roadside Auberge we once stopped at, very proud to have some Brits to give their 'English Menu' to. We couldn't keep a straight face to order 'Barrister Prawns' and even though we didn't want pudding, had to have another look at 'Flogging Cream'.

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