One of the most potent stories about language is the Tower of Babel. It occurs in Genesis 11. In the account, all humanity began by speaking a single language, even after exile from the Garden of Eden, and the tower is not exactly a mark of pride, nor is the curse of multiple languages exactly a scourge. Instead, the Tower is the natural consequence of the migrating people settling into a city, and "And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do" (Gen. 11:6). The confusion of the languages is to keep humans frustrated and wandering, to keep them from achieving their goal of "(making) a name for ourselves."
Pieter Breugel the Elder's "Little Tower of Babel"
Babel came to be seen as a second Fall, or at least a second exile, when man's fundamental punishment -- being denied communion with God -- was amplified through being denied communion in society. However, until the twentieth century linguists (excepting people like Ludovico Vico) believed that words derived from things, or things were manifestations of ideas (and so were words), and the division of languages and loss of the original language meant loss of magical and spiritual power.
I recommend Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language for the medieval to enlightenment European invention of linguistics as a side effect of the quest for the pre-Babel tongue.
For every person mounting Pegasus to overtop Babel, there have been five standing on the plains below having a giggle at our human noise and ten, at least, offering to translate for a fee. John Gay has a very funny letter to Mrs. Howard complaining about how he only knew French poetry; thus, to say that they went hunting, he would have to write that they had declared war against the feathered inhabitants of the air.
Americans have been accused of monoglot ignorance for a very long time, but American humorists have avenged themselves by making fun of the affectation of other languages. Even better, American authors have wondered at translations of idiomatic Americanisms. The new nation generated new environments, and the adaptations immigrants made to each other and the land made for colorful habits of voice.
Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" was originally published in 1867, and it was a hit. In 1875, Twain published "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," which is one of the funnier things you can read. It is an account of Twain reading his own story translated into French and then translating the French back into English. Click this link and enjoy.
"'Rev. Leonidas W. H'm, Reverend Le--well, there was a feller here, once by the name of Jim Smiley, in the winter of '49 --or maybe it was the spring of '50--I don't recollect exactly, somehow, though what makes me think it was one or the other is because I remember the big flume warn't finished when he first come to the camp; but anyway, he was the curiousest man about always betting on anything that turned up you ever see, if he could get anybody to bet on the other side; and if he couldn't he'd change sides.'" Becomes
"It there was one time here an individual known under the name of Jim Smiley; it was in the winter of '89, possibly well at the spring of '50, I no me recollect not exactly. This which me makes to believe that it was the one or the other, it is that I shall remember that the grand flume is not achieved when he arrives at the camp for the first time, but of all sides he was the man the most fond of to bet which one have seen, betting upon all that which is presented, when he could find an adversary; and when he not of it could not, he passed to the side opposed."
Inspired by Twain's retranslation of a translation, there was a "Babelfish" game that people would play to get comic results in the early years of the world-wide web. ("Babelfish" comes from the universal translating parasite in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
The Infocom game by the same name was legendary for the absurd lengths one had to go to in order to get the Babelfish.) I remember seeing the game played in the early naughts, but it doesn't work any more.
There are reliable ways of "breaking" machine translation, but Google Translate has killed the Babelfish game. . . sort of. Follow me, below, and I will show you two attempts to break Google Translate, the Googlefish experiment, and then an example of Google Translate failing on something easy -- along with a potential explanation for why.