Longreads

If you want to make a staid, over-anthologized poem more interesting, just cycle it through a handful of languages on Google Translate. Case in point:

She started shaking with her
Age and age everywhere:
Two ways,
I was moving slightly
And this has created a difference.

The last verse likely gives it a way — yes, it’s Frost’s “The Road Less Taken,” having been translated into languages including Maltese, Tajik, Hebrew, and Bengali, and then back into English. From past experience, the longer you extend the process, the more satisfyingly Dada the results.

This is, of course, a problem for a tool whose stated goal is to facilitate communication across linguistic barriers. As cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter explains in his Atlantic essay on Google Translate’s (many) shortcomings, the problem isn’t that the software doesn’t have large enough databases or sufficient computing power. It’s that Google designed it to swiftly…

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