Saturday, March 30, 2013

Een redelijk onschuldige handeling

Youp van t HekI didn’t get to bed until late last night.  The long Easter weekend allows for some uninterrupted quiet time to catch up with a few big jobs, so I was hunched at my desk until midnight, summarizing data for an upcoming anesthesiology meeting, preparing my first quarter VAT returns, and getting business cards scanned into my address book.

All delightful jobs, to be sure.

Which I why I laid in for a rare hour of idleness this morning, avoiding work, reading Youp van ‘t Hek’s collection of essays, Klein Gelijk, and listening to This Week in Google.

Yes, the two are incongruous, but they will come together in a moment.

No, if you were here, I would be more likely to be making buttered-eggs with lemon for breakfast instead of reading.

And, yes, I work too hard.

So, I’m reading Bejaardengevangenis (the title’s irony is not lost on me)  when Gina Trapani chirps in my ear that good things are happening with Google Translate.  Google TranslateI’m way ahead of you, I smiled, having previously blogged that Dutch dictionaries could now be downloaded for offline use.

If you speak a sentence it can translate it, transcribe it, and say it, corrected Gina.

No way.  I pulled up Translate on my Nexus.

“I go to the store”.  Ik ga naar de winkel, immediately returned, along with a credible verbalization.

“I’m going to be late for my meeting.” Ik kom te laat voor mijn afspraak.

“I’m looking for a book of postmodern philosophy.”  Ik ben op zoek naar een boek van postmoderne filosofie.

My tablet was pulling ahead of me now.  I felt a bit like the Swiss AI researcher in The Fear Index who discovers that his computer has become smarter than he is.

I reversed the languages.

“Ik ga naar de winkel.”  I go to the store.

“Het gevolg van een redelijk onschuldige handeling,” reading from ‘t Hek.  Gibberish returned.

I fiddled with the pronunciation, word by word.  I spoke with too much o, not enough u on onschuldige, not enough separation between words, wrong syllable emphasis on handeling.

Bit by bit, it fell into place.

It’s no substitute for a good teacher, but it’s not far from being a fantastic interactive learning tool.  And it’s all free.

DSC06940And with the morning’s fun concluded, I’m off to sample my Paasbrood

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