Thursday, October 28, 2010

Poetic Machine Translation

Robert Frost once said, "Poetry is what gets lost in translation."

Did you know J. R. R. Tolkien translated the first epic poem Beowulf? Can you imagine how many years it took to translate about 2,000 handwritten pages worth of Old English (West Saxon and some Anglian)? What would Tolkien say if we told him he wasted his time because Poetic Machine Translation will exist in the near future (perhaps 2010 or 2011). He might have laughed...he might have cried...he might have died from a heart attack caused by sheer disbelief.

Dmitriy Genzel, a software engineer from google, posted a humorous variation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven in order to explain their plans for Poetic Machine Translation:

Once upon a midnight dreary, long we pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of translation lore.
When our system does translation, lifeless prose is its creation;
Making verse with inspiration no machine has done before.
So we want to boldly go where no machine has gone before.
Quoth now Google, "Nevermore!"

Their aim is to translate based on the original poem's meaning, meter, and rhyme. Although, the system works too "slow" to release to the public, it's still something to keep our eyes open for.

To read more, feel free to check out my source.


  1. Oh, wow. That seems pretty neat. I'm gonna be interested to see what comes of this :)

  2. Lol! In high school and college, I usually enjoyed the challenge of racking my brain to interpret a poem. But I'm sure most students would LOVE a poetic machine translator....better than Cliff Notes for poetry.