Conversations with a German-Speaking bot.

Naturally, when I saw this, I had to try it. The results:

me: merry christmas
en2de: Frohe Weihnachten
me: are you going to the christmas market?
en2de: Werden Sie den Weihnachtsmarkt?
me: did you bring the camel?
en2de: Haben Sie bringen das Kamel?

Which reminded me of something else I’ll yank out of the rerun file (originally entitled “Use Your Words” and published on September 22, 2004):


Why is it that the words we remember best in foreign languages are invariably the most useless? Occasionally, I have dreams of polishing the rust off of my French, of expanding my understanding of German beyond it’s current 30-word limit. Sometimes, I even think it would be nice to finally learn Norwegian. Then I contemplate the actual meaning and quantity of the foreign-language words I currently possess. In French, it is conceivable that I could still embarrass myself creditably. After all, I studied the language for about six years (though those six years were many, many eons ago now). I used to brush up my French by reading advanced children’s books like the Le Petit Nicolas series. Then I found the first two Harry Potter books in French translation and thought it would be a good idea to use those to help me refresh my French.

Turns out that wasn’t such a hot idea. It took me ages to get through the first two chapters of the first book, and as a result I now have the perfectly useless word “perceuse” stuck fast in my brain. It means drill. Harry’s nasty uncle is a drill salesman – reading the book in English, I was never aware of the repetition of the word. But in French, oh – I frustrated myself with how often I looked it up. The first time or two I read it and looked it up, my helpfully discriminating brain said, “You won’t need that,” and promptly forgot it. That was a mistake. Having had to look it up a few more times, now I will never forget it. So – if you go to Paris with me, be sure to take me to a hardware store.

I visited Germany in Christmas in 1996. So, if you say, “Fro Weihnachten” to me while offering me gluhwein, we’re good. I can say “please” and “thank you.” I can even say “excuse me.” I can count to ten. I’m like Sesame Street auf Deutsch! While in a train station, I can tell the Eingang (entrance) from the Ausfahrt (exit). (Upon arrival at one of many train stations during that trip, one of my companions said, “I forget – do we gang or fahrt?”) So obviously, I’m a terror in German. Hold me back.

My Norwegian is the most laughable. Thanks to my late Norwegian grandmother, I can tell you I love you. Of far less utility, I can say “bread” and “butter.” I have no verbs with which to ask for the bread and butter, nor can I tell you where to shove the bread and butter. But then again, I can say “thank you very much” after being offered bread and butter. It’s not that useless after all – I can write a little Viking monologue: “Brot! Smur!! Tusen takk.” Applause

Thank you, thank you – you’re beautiful – I’m here all week. Try the bread and butter.


  1. Heh. Translating those two sentences back into English is actually kind of funny – the first one comes back more like “are you becoming the Christmas market?” and in the second one, G-bot said “Have you/did you to bring the camel?”

  2. Hee.

    me: did you to bring the camel?
    en2de: Haben Sie, um das Kamel?

    I like messing with translation software. It makes me giggle.

  3. Hee. I have a theory about this – that about the first 20-40 concrete words you learn (if that many) are the ones that “stick” – everything else after that is hard won at best. So numbers, colors, and animals tend to be the ones that are easiest to remember, and prepositions and verbs are the worst.

    I wish that most language books didn’t operate on a cumulative model (that is, chapter 2 assumes you’ve learned all the vocabulary in chapter 1 perfectly); I think I’d understand weird verb tenses if I hadn’t been trying at the same time to remember what those words from the third chapter meant.

    If you really want to mess with someone’s or your own head some day, try this:

    Count to 10 in language A, then language B, then language C. Easy, right?

    Okay, now try this: recite “one” in A, “one” in B, and “one” in C; then “two” in A, “two” in B, and “two” in C, and so on. Not so easy, this time!

  4. sad to say that the german was wrong too – so i think it is even funnier :)