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Hallo, Deutsche Leute!

Ich sehe einen großen Betrag von Ihnen, zu Skepchick aus einer deutschen Nachrichtenseite von einer Sorte kommend. Ich spreche German nicht, aber ich habe die Zeit genommen, um diese willkommene Nachricht für Sie zusammenzusetzen, einen On-Line-Übersetzer verwendend. Obwohl die Seite auf Englisch ist, sind wir alle großen Anhänger des Sauerkrauts, leiderhosen, des Bieres, und der deutschen Wissenschaftler wie Heisenberg und von Braun. Vielen Dank für den Besuch und kommen Sie bitte wieder!

(English translation follows)

Hello, German people!

I see a large amount of you coming to Skepchick from a German news site of some sort. I do not speak German, but I have taken the time to compose this welcome message for you using an online translator. Though the site is in English, we are all big fans of sauerkraut, leiderhosen, beer, and German scientists such as Heisenberg and von Braun. Thank you for visiting and please come again!

And now for the above translated into German and then back into English using the same translator, giving English readers a close approximation of what the German readers are probably reading:

Hello German people!

I see a big amount of you, to Skepchick from a German news side of a kind coming. I do not speak German, but I have taken the time to compose this welcome news for you, an on-line translator using. Although the side on English is, we are all big followers of the sauerkraut, leiderhosen, the beer, and the German scientists like mountain Heisen and from brown. Many thanks for the visit and you come again please!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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59 Comments

  1. My freshman year in high school, my family hosted an exchange student from Denmark. After she returned home, her parents wrote us a thank you letter promising to “retaliate” if given the opportunity.

  2. For what it’s worth, the German translation isn’t bad. (Not that I’d claim to be expert in German, but I don’t see anything horrifying in it.)

    It’s certainly MUCH better than the translation back.

    Though “großen Anhänger” might not be the best choice for what you meant by “big fans”, I think it gets the point across anyway.

  3. That’s rather bizzare. It translated the first and third instances of the word “German” but left the second one untranslated. I guess because it was capitalized and used as a noun, it assumed it was a proper name.

  4. This is bringing back memories of my high school German text book, which thought that the Scorpions were the best band in the world, and that Steve Martin’s “The Man with Two Brains” (or “Die Mann mit Zwei Gehirnen”) was the apex of humanity’s cultural endeavors.

  5. I once knew a woman from Slovakia who promised me “consumation”. After a moment of excitement, I realized that she thought it was a form of the word “consume” and was referring to getting some dinner. She was rather embarrassed, but when I pointed out that I didn’t even know anywhere near enough Slovak to accidentally promise someone sex, she felt better.

  6. @Ysabel: Agreed: the initial German isn’t really that bad. So the English to German machine is decent; the German to English is horrible.

    By the way, this is called “round-tripping”, and it is best accomplished with Chinese.

  7. Hi Skepchicks!

    For you amusement, this is the correct (manual!) translation of the automatic German translation, i.e. this is what Germans are actually reading:

    ========
    Hi, German people!

    I see a large amount of money flowing to Skepchick from a German news site of a certain kind. I don’t speak German, but I took the time to assemble this welcomed message for you, using an online translator. Even though this site is in English, we are all big followers of Sauerkraut, lederhosen, beer and German scientists such as Heisenberg and von Braun. Thanks a lot for your visit and please come again!
    ========

    The following is a “real” German translation of your English comment:

    ========
    Hallo, deutsche Leute!

    Ich sehe eine große Zahl von Euch nach Skepchick kommen von irgendeiner deutschen Nachrichtenseite. Ich spreche kein Deutsch, aber ich habe mir die Zeit genommen, für Euch diese Willkommensbotschaft mit Hilfe eines Online-Übersetzers zu erstellen. Obwohl diese Seite in Englisch verfasst ist, sind wir alle große Fans von Sauerkraut, Lederhosen, Bier und deutschen Wissenschaftlern wie Heisenberg und von Braun. Vielen Dank für Euren Besuch und kommt bitte wieder!
    ========

    (obviously, exchanging the online translation with these lines wouldn’t make much sense, since it would render the content inapplicable.)

    What’s funny about this is that the German word “Betrag”, though being the literal translation of “amount”, is almost exclusively used in the context of money in everyday language (something you might not know if you lerned German at school). Thus, “ein großer Betrag”, which is the literal translation of “a large amount”, is a synonym for “a large amount of money”.

    And then again, who would not be happy about loads of money flowing to one’s website? :-)

    But never mind, most readers will be able to understand what was really meant in the original version. That’s what we have brains for, after all. The online translation is not that bad as it might look at a first glance, as the message is still roughly understandable. I’ve seen some manuals who had been translated from Chinese over English to German (the English version being poor already), and believe me, this can give you some real headaches. Online translation tools are still a great tool if you don’t have any clue of a language though. E.g., if you encounter a Chinese website, a really, really bad translation might be much better than none.

    Just one little thing: Lederhosen are actually a cultural phenomenon limited to the area of Bavaria, and they are not any more likely to be found in North or East Germany than in Arizona. However, since the U.S. occupation zone after WWII mainly covered Bavaria, and because a lot of the clichés about Germany which are common in the US today are still going back to stories of soldiers after they returned home, the image of Germany in the U.S. is still heavily influenced by Bavarian customs.

    Btw, as someone being into Skepticism and science-grounded philosophy (such as the works of Karl R. Popper), I am really surprised to find that there are actually groups of women who are running blogs dedicated to these topics. Please don’t be offended, but my experience is that it can be pretty hard to find Skeptics in general, and even more so if they be female. At least I found out that it is definitely a no-go at parties – it will make you look like the stubborn, cold-blooded rationalist who simply can’t believe in visionary ideas.

    Keep up the good work!

    Regards from Germany,

    alkalamba

  8. Some friends and I used to play a game like that. We would ask a question in one language and use a machine translator to answer in another, with some hilarious results. Your translation was OK until you got to the part about sauerkraut, etc…
    This shows that while machine translators can be useful, interpreters are more useful.

  9. @Wordplayer:

    How many times do I have to kiss your zipper before your pants stop being sad? And seriously, what is it with your pants in Germany? The last 12 German guys I’ve met have insisted their pants needed some cheering up.

    I’m starting to think this is a scam.

  10. Still laughing about “sad pants.” :D

    And let it be said, @alkalamba, you totally rock. Thanks for the very informative post! And I’ll just say, if you’re looking for a party where skepticism will get a bunch of cute girls all excited and want to drink shots of vodka off your tummy … you’ve come to the right place. ;)

  11. More German?
    Hehe Of course the soon starting “Oktoberfest” (Beerfest) might be *more* “deutsch”! *snicker*

    BTW Leiderhosen OR Lederhosen are NOT limited to Bavaria, its the “Krachle(i)derne” thats is. which are folklore, livries.

    Bikers were the Le(i)derhosen because of their strong protection in case of an accident.

    And for the clumsy but quite understandable german greetings:
    Thank you, very appreciated!
    ;)
    Oder
    Vielen Dank, ich musste auch Lachen

  12. By the way, may I ask you which german news site has linked to Skepchick? I really would like to check out the article that links to this blog.

    And greetings from Germany. The translation was hilarious but you could understand what it was meant to say. But you really shouldn’t consider changing Skepchick’s official language to German! :)

    And there’s a lot more to Germany than lederhosen, beer, pretzels and sauerkraut. You know we are a) not all from Barvaria and b) even we have finally reached the 21st century. ;)

  13. @Rebecca:

    Oh, man, the expression “tofu wieners” is especially hilarious in a discussion about Germany and the German language.

    You see, the suffix “-er” is used to denote a (male) resident of a city or country — hence JFK’s famous phrase, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” And it so happens that the Austrian city that we call Vienna is actually referred to by Austrians and other German-speaking people as Wien (with the “w” pronounced like a “v,” of course) — so a guy from Wien is, quite seriously, a Wiener. I suppose that if he’s a vegetarian, he might very well be a Tofu Wiener!

    This is standard first-year German class humor, but it hasn’t lost its amusement value!

    ~Wordplayer

  14. @Ooxman:

    Yes, Ooxman, that is my picture. Thanks for the compliment! I sing in a professional Victorian-style Christmas caroling group called Vocal Magic (http://www.vocal-magic.net/), and that is one of my standard outfits for performing; the photo was taken in December 2007 just as I was leaving for a gig one day.

    Yes, that’s right — I’m an atheist who sings Christmas carols. Life is funny that way.

    ~Wordplayer

  15. @Rebecca: I don’t know if there are any tofu wieners. By the way, there are a lot of german sausages that are named after the areas they are from, like “Wiener”, “Frankfurter”, “Thüringer” and so on. And we have a food almost similiar to donuts that are called “Berliner”. So, when JFK said “Ich bin ein Berliner”, it could be translated as “I am a donut”. :D
    @Wordplayer: May I ask where your interest in the german language comes from?

  16. @Stargazer:

    My interest in German comes from several sources. Besides the fact that my heritage is mostly Germanic (my dad taught me to count in German when I was a child), there is the fact that when I was starting high school and was trying to choose which foreign language to study, I was still expecting to one day go into a career of either music or science (neither of which quite came to pass, but that’s another matter), so I studied German because it was germane to advanced study in both fields.

    I eventually even had German as a second major when getting my BA degree in English. Alas, my ability in it has badly deteriorated since then because I have never had much opportunity to use it.

    ~Wordplayer

  17. @Stargazer: may I ask you, on behalf of your entire country,what is up with the fondness for David Hasselhoff? I used to correspond with my cousin in Wiesbaden until one of her letters encouraged me to “check him out”. This was about 17 years ago..

  18. @whitebird: hmm, I was fond of Knight Rider, when I was younger, but I never was into that “I’ve been looking for freedom” craze some years back. And no, I don’t know why there is a special german fondness for David Hasselhoff, if there ever was any…

  19. *sufferer’s pants*
    actually would be the correct translation for leiderhosen

    or, put in a sentence: das sind leider hosen – this, sadly, are pants

    thanks so much for those sad pants, the image has burnt itself into my brain…

    eine Wienerin (female version of that sausage)

  20. @natefoo:

    The article is a weekly column about everything related to internet culture, which always includes some links to funny or interesting websites. The Skepchick entry “Top Secret Pics from Inside CERN” is linked as an ironic reference to the doomsday prophecies surrounding the LHC launch. Only the last remark of the column deals with Skepchick (without actually mentioning the idea or even the name of that site), so you are not very prominently featured there – but “Der Spiegel” (“The Mirror”) is Germany’s largest weekly paper, and their website attracts about 5 million readers per month, which actually makes it #1 of Germany’s most visited websites. So, even a small line at the very end of a small arcticle there can get you lots of visits.

    @whitebird:

    As a German native having lived in Germany for the most time of my life (except for staying half a year in Princeton, NJ), I can honestly, seriously assure you that we are really, really NOT fond of David Hasselhoff, at least not any more than Americans are, on average. You wouldn’t believe how often I heard this cliché during my stay in the U.S., but it’s just plain wrong.

    Yes, it’s true that he got some limited fame in Germany back in the 80’s, certainly more than many other American actors/singers. But then again, many, if not most American stars are rather unknown in Germany, especially the ones who aren’t on Hollywood’s Top 100 list. Sure, everyone here has heard of Britney Spears, but if you, e.g., asked a German about recent American Idol winner David Cook, no-one would have a clue who he is. (Actually there was an American Idol clone show in Germany called “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” [“Germany searching for a superstar”] whose winners earned some short-lived fame.)

    That said, David Hasselhoff was about as successful in Germany as he was in the US, a fact which he tried to further utilize by even publishing a song where he sings in German (I suspect that this song is the root of the “Germans like David Hasselhoff” cliché). His fame was merely based on starring in the then popular “Night Rider” series. But as I said, this was in the 80’s.

    So, while he might still be more well-known in Germany than many other American artists, he is in no way outstanding in popularity, and he probably has never been to the extent some Americans seem to believe he was. (I have to admit though that I barely remember the 80’s, since I was a little kid back then. I do remember that at one time his song “I’ve been looking for freedom” was fairly popular among the kids in my elementary school, which must have been around 1989.) Nowadays in Germany, he is just another aged once-popular ex-star, just as he probably is to most Americans.

    (I am not really upset about Americans making fun of Germany’s alleged obsession with David Hasselhoff. There are far worse jokes and clichès about Germans out there, and many of these hold more truth. And btw, there are at least as many unjustified clichès about Americans in Germany as vice versa. I’m just trying to explain why most Germans will be quite confused if you make a joke about Hasselhoff, since they won’t know Americans believe him to be famous in Germany.)

    @Improbable Bee:

    Right now I would already be happy if there was at least one party where I wouldn’t get kicked out for holding Skepticist views.. ;-) But seriously, it’s just nothing smalltalk compatible. Which is something I learned the hard way. But then again, there are other places than parties where you can have interesting conversations.

    @Rebecca:

    You can live quite a long time from a beer-only diet! ;-) But apart from that, I’d estimate there are about as many vegetarians in Germany as there are in any Western country. So, no problem there. You are certainly invited to come here, and most Germans are really excited if they have the opportunity to train their English skills by talking to a “real” American. A friend of mine, who is an American learning German, had a really difficult time to convince Germans she talked to not to switch to English once they recognized her American accent. I’ve to add that even if you don’t know a word of German, you will easily get around here. Germans of all levels of education know at least some basic English, usually enough for simple tasks like giving directions. If you like to travel across Europe, be warned that this is not the case in Spain, Italy or France, though.

    The European countries where English is best understood (apart from Britain, of course) are those with an “exotic” language spoken by only a few people, such as the scandinavian countries and the Netherlands. The simple reason is that they only have English movies with subtitles on TV, since a dub would be too much an effort for such a small audience. Also, all Germanic languages share some common properties in terms of grammar, vocabulary and pronounciation (English, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic are all Germanic languages), which makes it easier to learn one of them if your native language is another.

    I’d also like to point out that Germany is one of the most secular countries in the world, something I believe we can be proud of (and which might be of special interest to you) but which is now slowly changing due to Muslim immigration.

    So, once again, you are certainly invited. :-) I especially recommend to visit Munich, Berlin, Weimar and Cologne, all which are located in different parts of the country (South, North, East, West) and have a lot to offer. Munich is right in the heart of Bavaria (’nuff said..), Berlin has changed massively since the fall of the Iron Wall but still gives you an impression of the German empire during the 19th century, Weimar is home to everything related to music and art, and Cologne is a glittering metropolis in the Rhine valley, one of Germany’s most expansive places to live. (Disclaimer: I live in Aachen, which is Germany’s westmost town, so I might be biased in favor of Cologne, which is located nearby.)

  21. Best wishes from South Tyrol (Italy), a border region to Austria which is why german is my first language.
    I love skepchick(s)!!

    @alkalamba: It should be “Knight Rider” and not “Night Rider” :-) (damn, I LOVED this car!)

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