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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.

Result:

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.