Okay, I just made that website up, but there are literally dozens of translation programs available nowadays for folks with friends or business associates who mostly speak another language. Five years from now, or ten or twenty, these sites will undoubtedly be a major boon to communications, understanding and even world peace, but for now they are a primary contributor to international hilarity.

A case in point: I just heard that my friend Junko had to be hospitalized in Tokyo for some minor gastrointestinal problems. Of course I wanted to send her a get-well card, but had I done that by conventional post, it would have arrived several days after her recovery. So, instead, I sent an email to her cell phone. It read: “Dear Jun-chan, I am sorry to hear that you are in the hospital. I hope you will be feeling better soon. I am looking forward to seeing you when I get back to Japan in the fall. Get well soon! Your friend, Bruce” Innocuous enough, right?

Then, because Junko’s English is about as execrable as my Japanese (never mind that she was an English major in college!), I used an internet translator program to render the message into Japanese. The gist of it made it through the translation, but the gods live in the details, so they say, and the details were a bit muddled to say the least: “Dear Jun-chan, I am sorry to hear that you became a hospital. I look forward to feeling you better when I return to Japan in the fall. Take care! Your friend, Bruce.” I got such a chuckle out of it that I sent it without edits, although I did add a small disclaimer that the translation had been done by an internet translator, so please excuse any shortcomings.

This morning I received a reply from Jun-chan: “Thanks a lot. I’m happy mail. Get well as soon as possible to show a healthy appearance comes back to Japan two people wants to eat your food blues. What can I say, and I’m in the hospital, but please somehow important to the body. I look forward to seeing the day. Your friend, Junko” I’m still working on the nuance of this email, and will report any breakthroughs. 

My friend Julia, who lives in Austria and speaks primarily German, finishes off her emails to me (written in German and then translated with a web program into English) with “yours truly” or “sincerely” (so she says), but what comes across in English is the infinitely more charming closing “much fun to be had by all”.

So what have we learned from all this? Well:

1: Junko inexplicably became a hospital

2: Bru-chan is looking forward to feeling her better

3: Junko has once again morphed, this time into “happy mail”

4: Junko wants Bru-chan to get better soon, so that two people can eat his food blues

5: This is in some form or fashion important to the body

6: And, as is quite often the case, Julia gets in the last word, “much fun to be had by all!”


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