Tuesday, September 02, 2014

It's hard

Lenta.ru, an online Russian paper, had a story yesterday about the tenth anniversary of the Beslan school hostage debacle. The headline is Беслан - 10 лет, Beslan - 10 years. And the tag for Facebook is
Это тяжело, об этом хочется забыть. Но это стоит помнить, чтобы просто оставаться людьми.
As usual, Bing offers to translate it. And this is what they give us:
It's hard to forget about it. But it is worth to remember to just remain people.
And here's Google, for comparison:
It's hard, you want to forget about it. But it is worth remembering that just be human.
There are some obvious differences. But they both get it definitively wrong, in different ways.

Bing says "it's hard to forget about it." This completely ignores the хочется, which is an impersonal intransitive form of "хочеть", to want. Хочется (often with a dative "subject" (an experiencer) means "(one) wants to, (you) want to" with the implication that this desire is not volitional but imposed by circumstances or the universe (мне хочется есть means I'm hungry; я хочу есть means I want to go to lunch). And it's not an infinitive complement to тяжело - it's not "it's hard to forget about it," it's Google's "it's hard, you want to forget about it."

But Google shouldn't preen itself. It screwed up чтобы, which is a conjunction that introduces the irrealis, the counterfactual, the conditional and the subjunctive. It's not что, which is the simple subordinator "that"; it's "so that" or "in order to". Bing's "remember to just remain people" is much better (though Google's "human" is, I think, better here than the more literal "people"). And I can't tell but I think Google, like Bing, is ignoring the object of "remember" - if not, then it's ending ungrammatically (try substituting "it" for "that" to see what I mean).

Also, Google translates оставаться as"be", and that's not right; Bing's "remain" is much better.

Both of them choose the literal "worth" for the modal стоит, which does come from the verb for "cost". "Worth it" is okay, "worthwhile, worth one's while" better. But its modal meaning is closer to "really ought to".

So, anyway, my translation would be:

This is hard; you want to forget it. But we really should remember, in order to just stay human.

see text

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