Reading Russian, Poorly

I surely do get a kick out of reading reviews of Old Man’s War in Russian, primarily because the Google and Babelfish translations of what the folks have written are delightfully inscrutable: “Serious miscalculations Scalzi not have been allowed. At the very least, in the chosen path,” reads one, which is generally positive (I think), as is this one, maybe: “Good fantastic gunman in the best tradition of this genre, swallowed the day, with some claim to filosoficnosti, but after reading the special thoughts left.” Hmmm, maybe that wasn’t so glowing. Here’s an amusing one: “Not recomendovap to read a book to people who are more than 64 years not to incite false dreams.” Incidentally, it also appears that another translation of the Russian title of the book is “Destined to Victory,” which I must admit, seems a lot less lugubrious than “Doomed to Victory.”

It’s nice to see the book being discussed in Russian because, frankly, I have no clue as to how well it’s selling there or how it’s been received; Eksmo, my Russian publisher, hasn’t provided me with any of that information (and it’s early yet in any event). The fact people seem to be chattering about it, and generally seem to think it’s good book, is heartening. Now if only translation software were better, so I had a better idea what people were really saying. I suppose I could try to learn Russian.

19 Comments on “Reading Russian, Poorly”

  1. I know from previous postings that I’m not the only Russian-speaking person visiting your website. I don’t have time to translate this afternoon, but I’m sure if you ask, someone can.

  2. ah, you gotta love babelfish. rather than translate languages, it churns out the most bizarre, avant-garde poetry ever written.

  3. Buck, it’s fine. Google translate is a weird thing, but it’s good enough to get the gist of what’s being said, which is sufficient.

  4. I actually really like Doomed to Victory as a title, because for anyone who’s read the book and followed John Perry’s adventures, it would be very fitting for a soldier who may or may not agree with how the CDF deals with diplomacy.

    Either way… Dude, your book is in Russian! That’s gotta be a huge ego boost. Congrats.

  5. Student of translation theory, popping out of lurkdom to say: you’re never really going to get a decent translation out of a machine. The patterns of language are such that exceptions are the rule, and it takes human judgment to know when they apply. I’d take one of your Russian readers up on the offer of human translation. Sadly, I’m not one of them. But if you’ve got a review in Ancient Greek or Latin, I’m your woman!

  6. Eh. Learning Russian means spending several weeks learning Cyrillic first, because you have to train yourself out of thinking that letters mean what you think they mean. C becomes S. T becomes M. It’s very confusing.

  7. I love machine translation. The proverbial language barrier is now more of a heavy muffling curtain. I routinely have e-mail conversations with folks by writing to them in English and scrutinizing the Babelfish poetry output of their native language response. I only presume they are doing someting similar on their end. It’s a curiously satisfying manner of communtication.

  8. Basil Exposition: Austin, the Cold War is over!
    Austin Powers: Finally those capitalist pigs will pay for their crimes, eh? Eh comrades? Eh?
    Basil Exposition: Austin… we won.
    Austin Powers: Oh, smashing, groovy, yay capitalism!

  9. Stephanie:

    Way back during Russian 101 at Michigan State (when Reagan was president and people asked me if I was studying Russian because I was a communist!), we spent about two days on the Cyrillic alphabet. When you’re dealing in context, it becomes pretty easy.

    Now that I’m taking another stab at Mandarin, the transition from Latin to Cyrillic seems like nothing…

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