back to article Babbling net software sparks international incident

A word of advice: Never use an online translation engine to communicate with the Dutch Foreign Minister. Last weekend, a group of Israeli journalists used a translation engine in sending an email message to the Dutch Consulate in Tel Aviv. They wanted to discuss an upcoming visit to The Netherlands for a seminar on Dutch …


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  1. Big_Boomer

    Stupid, stupid and Where?

    The Dutch (so-called) Diplomats are stupid for taking offence at what was obviously a translation error. Stomme idioten.

    The Israeli (so-called) Journalists are stupid for not checking what they translated. No wonder they have so many problems with international relations. כסילים טיפשים

    Where can ya use Babelfish to translate to/from Hebrew?

    I can't find it.

    There are several other sites out there that do Hebrew but not Babelfish.

    If I were Systrans I'd be speaking to my lawyers right about now. <LOL>

  2. Andy Hockey
    Thumb Up

    Using the page suggested by Daniel B...

    "Babel Fish" translates to "Fish of the Confusion"

  3. Duncan Hothersall
    Dead Vulture

    As someone has already pointed out...

    ...Babelfish doesn't even support Hebrew. So whatever possible variety of bollocks this story is, it neither fair nor accurate. And I for one bemoan the complete lack of a Paris Hilton angle in the article too.

    Buck up your ideas, El Reg!

  4. Svein Skogen

    Maybe this explains

    the lack of sense "AManFromMars"'es posts make...


  5. Michael
    Thumb Up


    Thank you, thank you - a thousand thank yous - that story just made my day. Absolutely brilliant! ROTFLMFAOPMP

  6. Karl Lattimer

    babel loop

    Its superficial lower whole number is belongs to us

  7. Paul A. Walker

    I will not buy this record...

    ... it is scratched.

  8. Rik Silver badge

    @Robert Ramsay

    "challenged the creature to take back what it had said about his mother."

    "Do you stand by the assertion that she is a member of the Mesocricetus Auratus family, and that her spouse disperses the fragrance of Sambucus Nigra?"

  9. Paul R

    Rise of the Machines?

    This obviously needs to be filed under ROTM. It's a blatant attempt by Babel Fish to spark off an international incident, thus causing us to all nuke ourselves into oblivion, and allow the machine intelligence to take over unimpeded.

  10. Misha Gale

    re: Babel Fish gets good results

    @Anon: Is your son by any chance in an English school? Because as I understand it, throwing your inkwell at the exam paper gets you a C in French Language GCSE.

  11. Alexander Holland


    Has babelfish every been able to translate hebrew?

    It's certainly not an option now, was it removed, or is this story just "made up"?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even more worrying...

    ...that when a group of Hebrew speaking Israelis need to communicate with a group of dutch speaking dutchmen choose to translate into english at all?

    >whenever a chinese sentence contains the word "dry", it automatically

    >becomes "f*ck" when spitted out from babelfish, because they happen

    >to be the same word

    Now there's a dilemna which is the worse mistake? To "fuck the cow meat" or to "dry the prostitute".

  13. Anonymous Coward


    So big that none of the Dutch newspapers mentioned it, and I didn't know about this until I read it here. Thanks El Reg for keeping me posted on the imminent war between my country and a nuclear power, bypassing the conspiring bastards who try to keep us in the dark...

  14. piet heyn


    That is why I use the Twikilate translation engine. At least it knows that whether is האם in Hebrew. The other way around it translate האם as shinken (meat).

  15. Marcus Vowell

    Jag offs

    I'm sure they've gotten better since, but I remember discussing the universal translator problems back in college, and at the time the best one they (whoever they are) had translated "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" in to Russian and then back into English. The result was "The vodka is good, but the meat is bad."

    That being said, these Dutch guys are arseholes to get all riled up over what is obviously just a poor translation.

  16. Zac Jackson

    Babelfish brilliance

    I won't hear a word said against babelfish! Working over here in China it's an essential tool. I'd be lost without being able to understand my e-mails from Shiny Happy Jade like Budda delegating responsibility in his absence to steam riding urinating sheeps all...

  17. Danny

    babelfish works quite well

    i've had many a conversation with a person who's language i didn't speak with the help from Babelfish. just be sure to use complete words and carefully check the grammar and you'll be just fine (try and translate "you'll" to Dutch, it wont give you a proper respone. "You will" however, will translate just fine).

    there's several alternatives nowadays though, most perform much better (can't seem to remember which ones though).

  18. Biton Walstra

    journalist not speaking english...

    What kind of journalist are you when you cannot speak / write a word of english?

    I fully understand my Dutch Consulate to refuse those people to come to the Netherlands...

  19. Anonymous John

    What did they wait?

    Babelfish is known for the mutilating test.

    I will get my low.

  20. Jeremy
    Thumb Up

    Re: Bollocks!

    Anonymous Coward has a good point! Methinks the little yellow ear-fish has been unfairly fingered here...

  21. Risky
    Thumb Up


    I've roundtripped some particularly garbled forums posts before. Sometimes the come out better and actualy gain some grammar!

  22. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: fish poetry

    Finally, some mentions (albeit tongue in cheek, and don't you dare type *that* into BF...) an obvious precaution. After asking BF to translate *into* the language you don't speak, ask it to translate its results back into the original. Most mis-translations are not reversed on the way back. Frankly I'm surprised that BF don't recommend this prominently on their site.

  23. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Re: fish poetry

    Oh, and I suppose the other "safe" solution is to send your post in your own language with a link to BF at the top. Let the recipient run the text through and they'll be more forgiving of the output. This presumes a certain level of goodwill on the part of the recipient, but that ought to be true for embassy staff, at least unless you've been spamming them about their mother's sleeping arrangements.

  24. Spam Me

    is supposed to eventually do something similar, albeit for shopping (not language)

  25. Dunhill
    Black Helicopters

    Babelonisch ??

    HOW, if those journalists, who have no idea about other languages, wants to communicate with officials, when they are in holland ....

    Oh a laptop with hebrewfish on it maybe .....

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The explanation: babylon, not babelfish


    Hence how come it does do hebrew after all. Simple tech-ignorant-journo-transcription error.


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