It seems that the days of the Babel fish are close ahead. With translation technology getting smarter and smarter, this once utopian interpreting device from Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” may soon feel as spectacular as a watch or a pair of shoes. Even today, an application like Google Translate can already do amazing things. But you’d better handle it with some care, particularly when you’re dealing with languages as remote as English and Japanese.

In order to find out how reliable the modern Babel fish is, we selected three different text types, fed them into Google Translate, and had a look at what came out at the other end of the gills. The three genres were articles from NHK’s News in English, selected song lyrics from the drama “High School Musical,” and various job interviews available on the web. We always input several lines at once to give the fish a fair chance to understand the context.

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