A fascinating article on “big data” in the recent issue of Foreign Affairs claims that the output of the Google Translate product is “quite good.”

As a test, I entered a famous line from Wilhelm Müller’s Die Winterreise, best known for the Schubert song cycle of the same name:

Die Liebe liebt das Wandern, Gott hat sie so gemacht.

The result?

Love loves hiking, God made them that way.

Perhaps Victor Hugo will suit better:

Elle avait pris ce pli dans son âge enfantin
De venir dans ma chambre un peu chaque matin.


She took the crease in his boyish age to come into my room a little every morning.

Perhaps Hugo’s infant daughter was a goalie.

Or maybe the Divine Comedy?

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
ché la diritta via era smarrita.

Not bad:

In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Juvenalian satire, anyone?

Tongilianus habet nasum, scio, non nego, sed iam nihil praeter nasum Tongilianus habet.

Case-based languages are tricky even for humans:

Tongilianus has a nose, I know, I do not deny, but already it has had nothing but a nose Tongilianus.

Let’s try Asia. One of Basho’s most renowned haiku:

この道を 行く人なしに 秋の暮

Well, that one was tough:

The late autumn without people go this way.

I’m sure Google knows its Tang poetry:

关关雎鸠, 在河之洲。
窈窕淑女, 君子好逑。

Most creative response yet:

Customs cock sing in the River Island.
My Fair Lady, Marty.

Prose will perhaps fare best:

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.

Almost, but not quite:

In a village of La Mancha, whose name I do not remember, not long ago there lived a gentleman of the lance and ancient shield, a lean hack and a greyhound.

Polyglots may have some miles left in the tank after all.