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Can You Correctly Identify These Machine Translated Texts?

Nov 2016

Translation ,

Can You Correctly Identify These Machine Translated Texts? Earlier this month, we asked the question: Is machine translation good enough for your business? If you missed it, you can catch up on the answer here.

That original blog contained the translated texts from four novels. Each novel had been professionally translated from English into another language and we used Google’s free service to translate it back. The novels were:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (French to English)
  • 1984 (Mandarin to English)
  • The Hobbit (Spanish to English)
  • The Great Gatsby (German to English)

As linguists, we thought that the machine translation would miss the nuances of the texts and make them utterly incomprehensible. We were wrong.

All the texts emerged from Google Translate completely understandable and recognisable — if a little bit off.

That result got the office talking and sparked a discussion about how many times a text can be translated before all the meaning starts to disappear and it becomes a big jumble of words.

For this blog we have taken a number of texts — novels, poems and songs — and run them through Google Translate either once, twice or three times to produce a new English language version.

  • Level 1: Texts have been translated from English into a foreign language and back into English.
  • Level 2: Texts have been translated from English into two foreign languages and back into English.
  • Level 3: Texts have been translated from English into three foreign languages and back into English.

Each level contains one song, one novel and one poem in that order — see if you can work out what each one is and let us know how you got on on Facebook or Twitter.

Good luck!


Level 1

Level 1

English to Afrikaans to English


Today now be the day
That they gonna throw it back to you
By now you should have somehow
Realize what you should do
I do not think anyone
Feel the way I do about you now

Back beat, the word on the street
That fire in your heart out
I’m sure you’ve heard it before
But you never really a doubt
I do not think anyone
Feel the way I do you now


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was in the time of faith, it was in the time of disbelief, it was the season of light , it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we all direct the other way-in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on receiving his, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.


I wandered lonely as a cloud
It floats on high o’er valleys and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Along the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the wind.

Continuous as the stars shining
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They range in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand I at a glance,
Throw their heads dancing bicycles.


Level 2

Level 2

English to Spanish to French to English.


Somewhere over the rainbow, up
There is a country that I heard once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, the sky is blue
And the dreams you dare to dream,
Really true.

One day, I wish on a star
And wake up where the clouds are behind me.
When problems melt like drops of lemon,
Above the top of the chimneys,
That’s where you’ll find me.


If you really want to hear the first thing you probably want to know is where I was born, as it was my childhood, and how busy were my parents and everything before they owed me, and all that David Copperfield is about Shit, but I do not want to come in, if you want to know the truth. First of all, these things bore me, and on the other hand, my parents would have about two hemorrhages each if I said something very personal about them.


Once in a gloomy night, while I meditated, weak and tired,
On many a curious and picturesque volume of forgotten wisdom,
As I nodded, almost asleep, suddenly he patted himself,
Like someone gently tapping, tapping the door of my camera.
He is a visitor murmured, knocking at the door of my room,
Only that, and nothing else.


Level 3

Level 3

English to Russian to Italian to German to English


When I’m in trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking of words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness
She stands in front of me
Speaking of words of wisdom, let it be.
Well, leave him, but so be it.
Whispering words of wisdom, let it be.


It’s true generally acknowledged that a single man in possession of luck needs a woman should be.

The feelings and views of such a man may be known so little, enters its first quarter, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that is considered a legitimate property of one or the other of them daughters.


How I love you? Let me count the ways.
I love you to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the purpose of Being and ideal Grace.
I love you to the level of every day
More quiet, sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love you purely, they turn from Praise.



How did you do? If you want to check any of your answers, you can find the answers below.

  • Level 1: Wonderwall by Oasis, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Daffodils by William Wordsworth
  • Level 2: Somewhere over the Rainbow by Judy Garland, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Level 3: Let It Be by The Beatles, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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