if you can't speak the language, don't. October 7, 2007 8:37 PM   Subscribe

I've noticed a weird variation on the I-don't-know-the-answer-but-here's-a-wild-guess syndrome on AskMe: in "help me translate this" questions, people who quite clearly don't speak the target language still offer their awkward, ungrammatical or just-plain-wrong translations.

This is compounded by the fact that the askers obviously don't speak the language either, and probably already have a tough time picking the best translations. Examples: here , deleted-but-referenced-here and an oldie here..
posted by signal to Etiquette/Policy at 8:37 PM (110 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

What is your proposed solution?
posted by carsonb at 8:51 PM on October 7, 2007

Is it actually a variation on I-don't-know-the-answer-but-here's-a-wild-guess?

"Flag it, disagree in the thread, or ignore it" seems to be the accepted policy. What about that doesn't work just because the wrong answers happen to be in another language?
posted by pineapple at 8:54 PM on October 7, 2007

señálelo por medio de una bandera y muévase encendido
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:58 PM on October 7, 2007

Yo como las albóndigas en la biblioteca.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:01 PM on October 7, 2007

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:14 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Je n'ai aucune idée ce que j'ai juste dit.

You can say that again.
posted by YamwotIam at 9:16 PM on October 7, 2007

사람들은 영어를 가진 충분한 어려움이, 여기에서 있다 - 나에 의하여 올 마지막 장소는 번역을 위한 metafilter일 것입니다.
posted by strawberryviagra at 9:34 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Siempre hay un abombado que chamuya al divino botón, qué le vas a hacer...
posted by Iosephus at 10:05 PM on October 7, 2007

De nouveau, nous sommes finis pensant un plat aux haricots.

Ceci wendell de volonté.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:10 PM on October 7, 2007 [3 favorites]

La liberté des cons de dire n'importe quoi est-elle menacée?

Parce que ce serait grave.
posted by Wolof at 10:10 PM on October 7, 2007

ça, ugh
posted by Wolof at 10:12 PM on October 7, 2007

What did you just say about my mom?
posted by salvia at 10:13 PM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

فين التواليت؟
posted by miss lynnster at 10:19 PM on October 7, 2007

Я сказанный ваш снеток мати мертвых рыб. Она вероятно делала рыб для обеда. Было очень славно ее, я думал.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:23 PM on October 7, 2007

You're the bastard that's been sending that fucking Russian spam!!! What does it mean????
posted by strawberryviagra at 10:27 PM on October 7, 2007

Na und? Du koennest die Anmerkungen verlegen, wenn du moechest.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 PM on October 7, 2007

ymay overcrafthay isay ullfay ofay ellsay
posted by pyramid termite at 10:33 PM on October 7, 2007

mi non esthe sapio; quo methodo de dicte re
posted by gubo at 10:34 PM on October 7, 2007

phnglui mglw'nafl Cthulhu r'lyeh w'gah nagl fhtagn
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:37 PM on October 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

Ego vexillo unitorum statuum americae ac reipublicae quam desgignatem spondeo. Uni nationi sub deo invisiible cum libertate atque justicia omnibus.

Alors, revenons à nos moutons.
posted by padraigin at 10:38 PM on October 7, 2007

Shit, that should have read "indivisible"
posted by padraigin at 10:39 PM on October 7, 2007

posted by Abiezer at 10:45 PM on October 7, 2007 [3 favorites]

Ĝi estas la amasacerbo. Estas maleviteble ke homoj parolos pri aferoj kiujn ili ne komprenas.
posted by tepidmonkey at 10:47 PM on October 7, 2007

why don't you just overthink it and move on?
posted by Hat Maui at 10:47 PM on October 7, 2007

Ask Metafilter has always and will always have people who go out of their way to provide answers, even though they're not experts on the topic-at-hand, whether it's translations, medicine, law, or whatever. Fortunately (or unfortunately), their hearts are in the right place, so discouraging them from trying to participate, provided they follow the guidelines in making a proper AskMe response, probably won't happen, no matter how frustrating it might feel.

The most productive thing for you to do if it really bothers you is for you to provide an accurate translation/answer, and point out where the others failed, and here's hoping you get the "best answer."
posted by Dave Faris at 10:56 PM on October 7, 2007

Jay and Silent Bob will not visit them, but will they visit you?
posted by caddis at 10:56 PM on October 7, 2007

La mia morte viene!
posted by Verdandi at 11:00 PM on October 7, 2007


Wow. There's those missing hyphens.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:14 PM on October 7, 2007

Now to solve the riddle of the missing hymens...
posted by item at 11:18 PM on October 7, 2007

Not asking for buerre for my haricots, but could someone close this before goodnewsfortheinsane posts a whole bunch of Dutch?
posted by Cranberry at 11:30 PM on October 7, 2007

c'est surprenant combien de personnes ici parlent français, et c'est aussi un peu déprimant combien j'ai déjà oublié cette langue. ça fait seulement huit mois que je parlais regulièrement!

wenigstens kann ich Franzoesisch noch ein bissche sprechen. obwohl ich vier Jahre in die Deutsch-Schule-Ottawa verpasst habe, hab' ich fast alles vergessen. Versteh' nicht wie ich den TA-job gekriegt habe, um die Wahrheit zu sagern. wenn ich nur ein paar Monate in Deutschland verpassen koennte.. ich vermisse Heidelberg...

But anyway, TBH, most people probably simply don't remember the language as well as they used to. I mean, when I lived in Germany my spoken Germany could pass off for native (oh the joys of being 8 years old), but I've spent 6 years in Canada now and the deterioration is ridiculously obvious. Yet I still click on any Germany-related threads with interest. *shrugs* Not so much hamfisted arrogance as nostalgia, I suppose.
posted by Phire at 11:43 PM on October 7, 2007

Ik zie tranen uit je ogen stromen.
Zij zijn mooi, jou ogen.
Om jou te zien huilen,
Maar je moet het volhouden.
Ik wens slechts dat ik jou kon meer helpen.
Sorry, meer dan dit kan ik niet voor je doen.
posted by item at 11:58 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by KokuRyu at 12:04 AM on October 8, 2007

Hvad fanden snakker i om?
posted by sveskemus at 12:40 AM on October 8, 2007

ვერ გავიგე
posted by Tenuki at 12:44 AM on October 8, 2007

Es nevaru saprast nevienu vaardu!
posted by stirfry at 12:54 AM on October 8, 2007

Youpela tok Pisin?

Kaikai stik pela mi!
posted by goo at 1:19 AM on October 8, 2007

posted by misozaki at 2:11 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

All references herein to clause 4 shall be construed, mutatis mutandis, as referring, as the context so requires, to clause 5, or notwithstanding anything therein or herein to the contrary, clause 6.
posted by patricio at 2:20 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

Girando sua atenção uma vez que mais ao monitor do computador cintilar que ilumina atualmente seu quarto escurecido, agente Howie viram uma vez mais que alarme toda demasiado familiar. Mas de algum modo, esta vez, sentiu um sentido do urgency sobre ele.

Estalando no ' aceite ' a tecla, agente que Howie (ou ' como ' enquanto foi consultado às vezes lovingly por seus amigos na agência) encontrou suas suspeitas concernidas. Era R operativo ele mesmo, contatando o através da ligação video acima. "foda!" pensamento Howie. "esta deve ser alguma merda séria! R não contata meros agentes como mim para o funcionamento diário da merda do moinho. O que a foda está indo?"

Tentando regain seu composure, certamente perdido momentaneamente na vista de seu superior final na outra extremidade do link-up seguro, Howie dirigiu-se a seu recruiter one-time com todo o respeito que sua posição mereceu.

"senhor!" expressou. "é certamente um prazer? A o que eu devem esta chamada?"

o "negócio e o negócio somente, agente Howie" R operativo responderam tersely. a "palavra alcançou as orelhas da agência que sua parte dianteira para a invasão, este local você nomeou assim quaintly ' Metafilter ', pode ter fundido sua tampa!"

"eu não compreendo que o senhor" disse Howie na resposta. "os idiots que povoam esse local não poderiam possivelmente ter visto através de nosso ruse. O que o faz pensar é-nos sobre?"

"um borne em MetaTalk" respondeu R. "por alguém que chama-se ' persona non Grata. Fala sobre um watchlist e sabe mesmo sobre perfilar nós . Ao menos caiu para esse ' bullshit da segurança do homeland though. *"

"agradeça Christ para aquele certamente!" Howie dito. "deixe-me olhar o borne."

Girando sobre um eixo rapidamente ao redor em sua cadeira, Howie ligou o monitor escurecido do computador que monitorou permanentemente as atividades e os postings dos diversos Mefites. E lá era, apenas porque R operativo tinha dito que era. O borne #12501 em Metatalk era como um dagger frio, gelado através do coração de Howie. Este ' persona non Grata ' parecido saber distante mais do que um poster dumb como ele deve saber. Algo teve que ser feito, e teve que ser feito agora.

A invasão de Liechtenstein teria que esperar...

* Veja ' as aventuras do agente como # 24 ', wherein a agência estabelece o departamento da segurança do homeland ' para jogar diversos do MeFites mais esperto que teve clued na existência possível da agência fora do scent.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:24 AM on October 8, 2007

Touching, item.

Personally, jag har mensvärk.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:57 AM on October 8, 2007

I try to resist answering in such threads, but, as they say, the vodka is good but the meat is rotten.
posted by pracowity at 3:11 AM on October 8, 2007

padraigin: "Shit, that should have read "indivisible""

One nation, invisible? I like that version better.
posted by Plutor at 3:41 AM on October 8, 2007

Also: l'Afrique n'erecte plus des hôtels odieux.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:16 AM on October 8, 2007

If someone's answer is wrong, say their answer is wrong. The questioner will probably believe you.
posted by smackfu at 5:40 AM on October 8, 2007

The noise is definitely drowning out the signal in this thread.
posted by JanetLand at 5:53 AM on October 8, 2007

Mi tío está enfermo pero la carretera es verde.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:12 AM on October 8, 2007

I'm still amused by the fact that someone who's not a native speaker of spanish told me that one of my translations was a good attempt at using google translator. :P
posted by Memo at 6:17 AM on October 8, 2007

... hab' ich fast alles vergessen.

Yeah... I feel your pain.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:19 AM on October 8, 2007

Does this mean the list of "Oh my god! There's enriched uranium in my garden!" translations should be treated as potentially less than 100% reliable?
posted by Wolfdog at 7:20 AM on October 8, 2007

Ich have keine Idee, aber hier ist ein Radiergummi?
posted by katillathehun at 7:30 AM on October 8, 2007

*habe, nicht "have"
posted by katillathehun at 7:31 AM on October 8, 2007

(kind of funny that a meta post by signal is answered by so much noise)
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:51 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Sometimes people give bad advice on AskMe.

Sometimes people give bad advice in real life.

If you can't tell good advice from bad advice, you immediately cease communication with the outside world.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:08 AM on October 8, 2007

... you (should) immediately cease communication ...
posted by Afroblanco at 8:09 AM on October 8, 2007

First time I deleted a Spanish translation of "my hovercraft is full of eels" from the green, I had never actually seen the Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook skit, so instead of coming off as a stupid abuse of AskMe, it read as a boggling and stupid abuse of AskMe.

Mmm, context.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:16 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Illegitimi non carborundum.
posted by ericb at 8:55 AM on October 8, 2007

"Ich bin ein Berliner."
posted by ericb at 8:58 AM on October 8, 2007

There is no binary state of "know/doesn't-know the language." Some people have taken a few years of courses and that may be all that is required to answer this question. Or perhaps not.

This problem isn't peculiar to language questions though. In some physics or math questions we also get answers from people who have read a few pop-sci books alongside other answerers with Phds.

Ultimately, the asker will have to resolve the authority for themselves. (Using Google translator however, is more of a prank than an honest effort to answer the question) Usually by seeing if a consensus is forming. I've also noticed there is a group of people who won't bother to chime in to these types of questions unless someone is offering an exceedingly misleading answer. In which case, they'll help to balance the consensus.
posted by vacapinta at 9:00 AM on October 8, 2007

To be fair, in some cases the PhD's do occasionally get the right answer.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

My hovercraft is full of eels.
posted by caddis at 9:08 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]

A légpárnás hajóm tele van angolnákkal.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:08 AM on October 8, 2007

"As a child, was your cradle rocked too close to the wall?"

"On t'a bercé trop près du mur?"
(on ta ber - say troa pray du mer)
posted by bru at 9:14 AM on October 8, 2007

Wow, thanks for the "your Spanish sucks" callout.

if you can't speak the language, don't.

See also "Speak English, this is Merka".
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:24 AM on October 8, 2007

Just. Mä jätän kaikki vieraankieliset kysymykset rauhaan ihan vaan sen takia, että hädin tuskin osaan omaa äidinkieltäni enää kirjoittaa.

Unless you ask me about slightly outdated (3-5 years now) Helsinki slang.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:40 AM on October 8, 2007

Also, I find it really funny that I have no idea if the links signal linked to are correct or not. I have to trust his judgement on the matter. Which is why I don't ask language questions on AskMe.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:42 AM on October 8, 2007

posted by R. Mutt at 9:47 AM on October 8, 2007

It's possible to both have and spread Male Answer Syndrome without even knowing you're infected.
posted by hermitosis at 9:48 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Vacapinta is right: they also serve who only stand and bait the experts into finally making an appearance.
posted by jamjam at 9:53 AM on October 8, 2007

Sometimes when I'm drunk, I speak finnish. I know one finnish phrase (ootko sä poika vai tyttö?) and two ways to say beer (kalja, olut), but that's all I need to get by.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 10:00 AM on October 8, 2007

Soundofsuburbia, the former will get you punched, regardless of who you say it to, but the latter is absolutely vital for survival in the harsh wilderness of Finland.
posted by slimepuppy at 10:09 AM on October 8, 2007

How do you know if you can or can't speak a language if you don't try?
posted by milkrate at 10:15 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]

Sorry, sometimes I just feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and start typing frenetically until we all fall down.
posted by Abiezer at 10:21 AM on October 8, 2007

slimepuppy: Yeah, but as a hurri out drinking in Suomi, I expect nothing less. It's a preemptive strike! ;)

Another pro tip is (I think) not to order a Lapin Kulta when in Suomi, which I did once and then became the laughing stock for a whole night. Karhu is the way to go, apparently.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 10:23 AM on October 8, 2007

If they translations don't make sense, try saying them LOUDER and more SLOWLY. That's what Americans do.

I really wish I knew all the languages in this thread.
posted by misha at 11:21 AM on October 8, 2007

I always drink Lapin Kulta when I'm in Finland. Just be sure to get the strong one from an Alko store. The weak one you can get in the supermarkets tastes like piss.
posted by sveskemus at 11:33 AM on October 8, 2007

their hearts are in the right place

But their heads are up their ass.

I feel your pain, signal, and have made the same complaint repeatedly. But Male Answer Syndrome is eternal, like Cthulhu.

Oh, and:

Bân-lâm-gí sī Hàn-gí Bân-hong-giân chit-châng tōa chhiūⁿ-châng ê 1-ki chhiūⁿ-oe, sī siōng-kài ū éng-hiáng-la̍t ê Bân-hong-giân.
posted by languagehat at 12:24 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

We assume here on Meta that the reader has enough nous to wait for a few answers and not jump on the first (well I do, but I am the eternal optimist!!)

and as for only the linguists/native speakers answering these questions:-

Nílimíd ablta a bheith ann 24/7, a stór mo chroí!

People can also get it badly wrong within their own language.

(slight derail/ although looking upthread not by much)

A hotel in Cork City rang up the local Health centre for pregnant woman and asked for advice in marketing their new pool and spa facilities. After some phone advice from a doctor they duly sent a big poster and expensively printed info packs to the clinic advertising their anti-natal facilites.
posted by Wilder at 12:51 PM on October 8, 2007

/further derail/ Part of the irony in that last joke is in the fact that abortion legislation in Ireland is exactly that, an abortion of the legislation.
posted by Wilder at 12:53 PM on October 8, 2007

MetaFilter ist wirklich eine Ideenfabrik.
posted by cmonkey at 1:32 PM on October 8, 2007

Es ist also eine Fabrik fuer etwas anderes, weisst du was ich meine?
posted by Phire at 2:34 PM on October 8, 2007

Ya, fur dieser maennern die 40-60 minuten dauern ;)
posted by Wilder at 2:38 PM on October 8, 2007

Ach, schiesse, Typos in German, kill me now!
posted by Wilder at 2:39 PM on October 8, 2007

Dies irrt sich gut wenden.
posted by oaf at 3:23 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think the best way around this is for the asker to specific native speakers only. Then anyone posting half arsed google translations can be have their answers deleted for not answering the question. Sadly the non-expert spouting shit is always going to happen (I'm sure I've done it myself) so the onus is on the questioner to be specific about the quality of answer that they require.
posted by shelleycat at 3:26 PM on October 8, 2007

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Integer lacus. Morbi sem nisl, ornare vitae, feugiat rhoncus, elementum vitae, nibh. Nunc tellus ligula, volutpat nec, dapibus vel, vulputate ut, leo. Proin dignissim fringilla leo. Proin elit. Sed sodales. Curabitur metus ipsum, molestie sed, vehicula vel, sagittis vulputate, mauris. Vestibulum consectetuer pede vel sem. Aenean sem. Aenean euismod tempor neque.
posted by carsonb at 4:19 PM on October 8, 2007 [4 favorites]

40-60 Minuten, Wilder? Bist ganz optimistisch, oder? ;)
posted by Phire at 4:54 PM on October 8, 2007

posted by The Deej at 5:51 PM on October 8, 2007

Try your hand at these, Ms. Lynnster:

بتقول اللولكات: مش عايز

انا ممكن افكّر ان تبق الفول

متفيلتر:ابدا بالعربي

A lot of this is Colloquial Egyptian [I hope! It may be gibberish] so doesn't translate as well
posted by Deathalicious at 7:34 PM on October 8, 2007

Wow, sorry, egregious error. Should have been

انا ممكن افكّر كثيرآً ان تبق الفول

I think.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:38 PM on October 8, 2007

You don't even need a language other than English, really.

Swedish: I buy pink sheets for a kiss.
Italian: I want a sheet on the bed, a fork on the table, and peace on you.
Dutch: They might keep tearing up your American flag, but United States.
French: Key am do we ski? Essay new? (Oh cooney day.)

Polyglottomedy realized, stinky britches.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:04 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

This MeTa is sort of silly; do we run to MeTa and kvetch when we notice a respondent misdiagnoses a malfunctioning car part, or gives the wrong address to a great restaurant in New York? No, you tactfully explain why they are incorrect in your response, and then give the right answer, like Dave Faris said. You can even clicky on the lil flag if you're het up enough.

I realize that languages may be your thing, but acting as if wrong translations are a special AskMe sin, requiring sanctions against those who doth trespass against The Word, is bunk.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:47 PM on October 8, 2007

Great. This thread has become a free-for-all on behalf of second language speakers and cryptologists. Nice going.
posted by scarabic at 10:29 PM on October 8, 2007

I'd try but my colloquial egyptian sucks rocks. Plus I'm finishing up a 2 week break from classes so I'm steadily forgetting even the Modern Standard Arabic I'm supposed to know.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:43 PM on October 8, 2007

Metafilter: second language speakers and cryptologists
posted by sveskemus at 12:35 AM on October 9, 2007

hey goodnewsfortheinsane, care to clue losers like me in? I only know about how all Italians want to shit on beds.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:28 AM on October 9, 2007

TG4 to produce a Gaeilge version of South Park - Slugger readers treat us to Irish versions of "Oh no, they killed Kenny!" and "chocolate salty balls."
posted by Abiezer at 7:53 AM on October 9, 2007

Ima suri dondai, wurdah glao, wurdah itah; theusz hamtaahk!
posted by breezeway at 9:25 AM on October 9, 2007

بتقول اللولكات: مش عايز

انا ممكن افكّر ان تبق الفول

متفيلتر:ابدا بالعربي

I'd like to buy a vowel, please.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:30 AM on October 9, 2007

Rowlf & The Swedish Chef.
posted by ericb at 11:04 AM on October 9, 2007

Phire, Kann es sein, mein lieber, dass du den referenz-thread verpasst hast?
posted by Wilder at 1:46 PM on October 9, 2007

Hahaha, okay, das macht mehr Sinn.

Ich hatte gestern die Gelegenheit diesen MeTa-Thread meinem Freund zu erklaeren. Ich hab' so was wie "trading sexual innuendos in German" gesagt, worauf ich ein ganz verwirrtes Blick bekommen habe, haha.

(Wie wuerde man das ueberhaupt in Deutsch sagen? Sexuelle bemerkungen in Deutsch austauschen? Babelfish meint dass es 'Anspielung' sein soll, aber das klingt ganz komish, oder?)
posted by Phire at 2:08 PM on October 9, 2007

Addendum: bin eine liebe, nicht ein lieber ;)
posted by Phire at 2:09 PM on October 9, 2007

Un petit d'un petit
S'étonne aux Halles,
Un petit d'un petit
Ah! degrès te fallent,
Indolent qui ne sort cesse,
Indolent qui ne se mène,
Qu'importe un petit d'un petit
Tout gai de Reguennes.
posted by Johnny Assay at 3:25 PM on October 9, 2007

François Charles Fernand d'Antin ftw.

Note -- «degrés».
posted by Wolof at 1:13 AM on October 10, 2007

Liebe Phire, entschuldigung! Also, Anspeilung find' ich auch komisch, but that's probably because German does innuendo so rarely, no?
So they "speil" part sounds wrong whereas the more direct Bemerkungen geht?
Sorry about typos, never learned to write German, Ich hab' nur Schweiger-Mutter Deutsch!
posted by Wilder at 8:03 AM on October 10, 2007

Deathalicious, the Swedish one amounts to a playground sound-alike poo poo pee pee joke; the French one is a phonetic approximation of "Who loves whisky? Is it us? (No idea.)".

The Dutch one is a shameless appropriation of a bilingual pun by the at times tiresome, but in this case amusingly clever Kadé Bruin: "Ook de Amerikaanse vlag begint steeds weer nieuwe scheuren te vertonen. Maar je naait 't steeds." - "The American flag too may rip time and again. But you'll sew it up every time", the last bit being homophonous with "United States" spoken in a Dutch accent.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:55 AM on October 10, 2007

Signal, were you talking to me? I got the trickiest part (subjunctive) right and abstained from the part I wasn't sure about. And "querida" (or carinho) is what I'd say to my Spanish girlfriends; I don't think I ever heard "dulzura" there.
posted by footnote at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2007

Mon crayon est large.
posted by deborah at 5:06 PM on October 10, 2007

Hahah, Wilder, dass du nie Deutsch richtig gelernt hab kann man von deinen ersten drei Comments ueberhaupt nicht bemerken.

And yeah, German is now giving me a headache, hahaha. Maan, I need to practice more.
posted by Phire at 8:59 PM on October 10, 2007

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