Monday, April 20, 2009

In Your Language, and in Mine

The "Mad" of mad engineering is a callback to the stock "Mad Scientist," who operated by cranky, deranged theories, and disregarded things like common sense, and if the villain of the piece, morality. However, the term "Mad" has drifted since that time. Then it meant "Insane," now it means "Angry." Many a joke about "I'm not a mad scientist, I'm an angry scientist" has been bandied about.

In any case, people have been reading my blog whose browsers report that English is not their native language. As much as I would like to see this blog translated into other languages, I speak only one language other than English, and not quite well enough to have confidence in my own translation work.

But with some help from Yahoo's Babelfish, and the ever handy ZhongWen, I was at least able to determine a way to translate the blog's name. I will show it in the top registering languages to provide a little sample of each language and how it works.

Spanish
Translation: Ingenierí­a Insana
Back-Translation: Insane Engineering

Spanish is a Latin-based language that uses a different word-order than English. Adjectives go after the noun that they modify. Also, nouns and verbs must agree in a "gender" property, set arbitrarily by the noun. "Ingenierí­a" ends in an a and is therefore feminine.

1st Alternative: Ingenierí­a Loca
Back-Translation: Crazy Engineering

2nd Alternative: Ingenierí­a Rara
Back-Translation: Strange Engineering

German
Translation: VerrückterTechnik
Back-Translation: InsaneEngineering

German is agglutinative, that is that it combines related words into very very large ones.

Alternative: WütendeTechnik
Back-Translation: AngryEngineering

Portuguese
Translation: Engenharia Insana
Back-Translation: Insane Engineering

Portuguese is very similar to Spanish, based on Latin, and with Adjectives after the nouns that they modify.

Chinese
Note: If you don't have a Chinese-language font installed, the characters below will probably appear as garbled gibberish. But if you don't have a Chinese-language font, it's probably because you don't know Chinese in the first place, and can safely ignore it. Pinyin is the official latinization transcription system, so go with that.
Simplified Chinese: 疯狂的工程学
Traditional Chinese: 瘋狂的工程學
Mandarin Pinyin: Kuang2 De5 Gong1 Cheng2
Back Translation: Crazy Engineering

Chinese is tricky, in that it consists of many hundreds of "dialects" that are more different than Spanish and Portuguese above, some as far away as German vs. Spanish are. Almost all the dialects are tonal, and require the word be pronounced at the right pitch to convey the correct meaning. The wrong tone results in a different word altogether.

In the "Mandarin" dialect spoken most commonly in China, these characters would be read as I described, with the "Kuang" and "Cheng" starting at a mid-level pitch and rising, the "De" spoken at a mid-level pitch and holding steady, and the "Gong" spoken at a high pitch that remains steady. There's also a tone that starts high and falls ("4") and a tune that goes down and then up halfway through ("3"). Other dialects have even more tones.

Written Chinese is semi-ideographic. Each symbol represents a certain concept, although they can and do modify each other extensively. Also, the mainland region made an attempt to simplify the writing of the characters to improve literacy, as each would now be easier to write, whereas the island of Taiwan insisted on maintaining the traditional style.

The "Kuang" character depicts a dog uncontrolled by leashes, and also hypothetically rabid. It is used in many terms to describe insanity. The "De" depicts sunlight and a ladle, and connects the two ends that would normally be read as completely separate concepts.The "Gong" and "Cheng" are the standard way to say "Engineering." The "Gong" depicts a carpenter's square, and by extension all precision work. The "Cheng" shows rice grains distributed out in measured portions. Somehow, precisely measuring rice as to fairly divide it must have been a really common use for engineering in ancient China.

1st Alternative Simple: 话的工程学
1st Alternative Traditional: 亂的工程學
1st Alternative Pinyin: Luan2 De5 Gong1 Chen2
1st Back-Translation: Chaotic Engineering

2nd Alternative Simple: 怪的工程学
2nd Alternative Traditional: 怪的工程學
2nd Alternative Pinyin: Guai2 De5 Gong1 Chen2
Back-Translation: Weird Engineering

Japanese
Translation: 非常識工学
Back-Translation: Insane Engineering

Japanese was first written with Chinese characters, because the ancient Japanese found Chinese civilization to be amazing and wonderful. Unfortunately for them, the script meshed poorly with Japanese as a spoken language, and "Hiragana" and "Katakana" were made to fit in the necessary grammatical glue. Today, "Hiragana" is used for grammatical glue, and "Katakana" is used for loan-words, to indicate their non-Japanese origin.
Japanese and Chinese share enough characters that a Japanese person could probably read a simple Chinese newspaper. The reverse is less true, as any loan-words would rapidly trip-up a Chinese reader.

Maori
Translation: Puutaiao Poorangi
Back-Translation: Crazy Science
Maori is a Polynesian language, distantly related to Hawaiian. It is undergoing a resurgence in popularity in New Zealand, where it was widely spoken in the past and is now widely spoken again.

French
Translation: Technologie Fou
Back-Translation: Crazy Technoloogy

French is a Latin-based language, but made some different choices over the ones made by Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. It is rather rigidly defined by the Acadamie Francais, or "French Academy."

2 comments:

l33t MD* said...

Despite being neither German nor a linguist, I'm going to have to disagree with you. I believe the correct way to describe German grammar is synthetic rather than agglutinative, meaning it wouldn't agglutinate the phrase "mad engineering". I also think you should have used the word verrückt (crazy) instead of wütende (angry), rendering the final German phrase verrückte Technik, possibly even verrückte ingenieurschaft. But my German classes were a long time ago, so I might be mistaken... :)

Other than that, thanks for showing the international crowd some love! :D

themadengineer said...

don't actually know German as a language, so I'm easily tricked by dictionary tricks like that. My foreign language of choice was Spanish, which is quite common both in the region where I grew up and the one I live in now.

Yes, the German standard is to capitalize all nouns as you wrote in your other post. However, I'm not going to nitpick on grammar. If I had my way, I would telepathically insert my thoughts into the heads of more coherent people to express myself in favor of language.

English may be a popular language worldwide, but it isn't the only one. I want a translator.

Also, it's been my experience with German that it does combine related words in a concept into one big one. Maybe they all have to be nouns to
do that.

For instance, "Solar power station" in English combines into "Solarkraftwerk" in German, containing the obvious parts "Solar" "kraft" "werk". The place in which the sun's energy is harnessed to provide useful labor. It's almost elegant in its craftsmanship.

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