"Take no heed of her...She reads a lot of books."
~Jasper Fforde

Sunday, May 24, 2015

English as She is Spoke (Pedro Carolino)

I'm learning Japanese.  (私 は 少し 日本語 を はなします).  I'm no expert, and don't consider myself to be one.  Mostly, I can say basic sentences, and spout out some vocab.  Even that does not make a ton of sense.  I can say that I speak Japanese or English ( は にほんご を はなします; は 英語 を はなします), words like awesome, apple, and rice (すごい; りんご; ご飯) and make simple sentences that make little sense (私 は おいしです ご飯)--> I am delicious rice.

Sometimes, things get lost in translation.  And even while using online translators, such as Google translate (which helped form the Japanese characters for me) things often get screwed up. How many of you (and I'm sure it's most of you) have tried putting something into Google translate, filter it through a few languages, and set it back to English?  Usually what comes out is somewhat garbled, but generally intelligible.  I had tried it myself a few years ago, and posted the results on this blog.  It makes for an interesting way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Of course, because of its shortcomings, people generally use Google Translate knowing that this is not going to be a perfect translation.  And we certainly don't think that this is good and proper English.  But, what if someone had really butchered a translation and people believed that it was legitimate?  Well, that's what happened with my most recent read: English as She is Spoke.  What happened was a well-intentioned Portuguese man wanted to create an Portuguese to English phrasebook.  But, he didn't know any English and didn't have a Portuguese to English dictionary.  Rather, he had a Portuguese to French dictionary and a French to English phrasebook.  English as She is Spoke is the results of his careful translations.  Some of it makes sense, most is pretty garbled, and there are passages that mean nothing at all: "After the paunch comes the dance" or "To craunch the marmoset".

I felt bad for laughing, since it was obvious someone put a lot of time and effort into writing this book.  But, in all honesty, there is only one reason its still being published over 100 years later.  And that's because it is so funny!  As a textbook, it is no longer valid.  But, as a piece of entertainment, it's a real hoot!  If you're interested in language, then you should check this out.  But, also, you should check it out just because it's fun to read.

I have an additional treat for all you, too.  If you are interested in reading this book right away, you can check it out online at this link here.  This is a pretty fancy digital copy of the text, so it should be a lot of fun to explore!  I wish I had known it was online, so I wouldn't have had to use the library copy (which was mysteriously sticky--ewwww).

As always, happy reading!


  1. I find Japanese VERY useful for tracking down rare items of anime/manga/video game memorabilia from Japanese-only websites (like Yahoo Auctions Japan). I still go cold when people say they love comics, but don't read manga. What they actually mean is that they're racially/culturally exclusionary with their graphic novels.

  2. That's a great idea! Once I get the hang of Japanese, I'll have to try that. I started off as just an anime/manga fan, but I'm finding that I'm becoming a collector, as well. So, I guess I had better get practicing, haha!

    And as for reading comics, but not reading manga, I agree with you. Although, I always thought that perhaps they were too intimidated by the "backwards" reading style. As for me, it's gotten so natural, that sometimes, I find myself picking up American books from the back to the front before I realize what I'm doing xD


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