Tuesday, August 9, 2011

In Which I Eat Gerbil Stew And Grow An Herb Garden For Nefarious Purposes

Today we got Ellen's letter back from the translator!  So now we just have to print it out and figure out which pictures we want to send with it and we'll be able to get her care package in the mail. 

I'm so glad that we have a translator available to us, though I wish I knew Thai well enough that we didn't need to use one.  Since I spent quite a bit of time in college studying various translations of poetry and fiction, I'm well aware that word choice can make such a difference in the tone and meaning of a letter.  While I have no doubt the translator did an absolutely fantastic job-- she has a ton of experience and a great reputation-- I'm anal and nit-picky like that and wish I could do it myself.  Maybe one day a few years in the future I'll be good enough to manage it.  In the meantime we'll rely on the translator.  It's either that or write her letters composed entirely of the eight or so words I know in Thai.  No doubt they would make a really good impression.

Of course I could always save us some money and plug the letters we write into Google Translate, because it does a really professional job.  It's easy to determine just how accurate of a translation you get with the program-- you just copy whatever you've written into Google Translate, change it over to Thai, and then change the Thai back to English.  Here's the first paragraph of our letter:

"Hello!  This is our first letter to you, and it’s so difficult to figure out what to say because we have so many things we want to tell you.  We are so excited about making you a part of our family, and we can’t wait to meet you for the first time!  Our adoption dossier is in Thailand right now but it will probably be many months before we are cleared by the government to travel, so in the meantime we’ll be sending you packages and writing you letters so that you can get to know us a little better and to make the wait not seem quite as long."
And here's Google Translate's version:
"Hello!  (untranslatable sentence) Our dossier is accepted in the country right now.  It may be several months before we were washed out by the government to travel, so in the meantime, we will send you a package and letter writing you so that you can get to know us a little.  Better and do not seem to be waiting a very long time. "
See!  Our daughter could have tons of fun trying to figure out what the heck we are talking about.  Highlights include when I tell her about roller derby, which is translated as "a woman who is very popular here and has been on a roller skate," and about how we don't let the gerbils out in the house because "I would love to make dinner out of them."
Yum.  Gerbil stew is my favorite.  Oh, and also I apparently grow an herb garden because I'm planning on cooking my mother.  Sorry, Mom.
So I think I'll let a person who actually knows what they are doing translate our letters into something that, um, makes sense.  That way our daughter won't believe that my cooking is quite a bit more exotic than the average American household prepares.



krlr said...

So would the gerbils be an appetizer & Mom the main course? Seasoned with a little dill? Mmm! Maybe a random "sweet girl" would translate into dessert?

Too bad you probably don't want to frighten her because otherwise? Fun times! Maybe a blog post instead?

Melissa said...

This made me laugh out loud, with the translations!

Julia said...

Oh, I have got to try that! The Google translation game, not the gerbil stew, of course. Kind've like going through the Star On and the Star Off machines in the Sneetches. I wonder what would happen if you fed the output back into the English-to-Thai translator and then back through Thai-to-English. How many iterations would it take to remove all semblance of meaning?

You're not going to get much meat off the gerbils. Stick with Mom.

Julia O'C said...

Thank you for making me laugh!!

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