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How big of a threat is Google translate?
Thread poster: Tim Drayton

Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 00:48
Turkish to English
+ ...
Feb 3, 2009

Google translate has recently begun to offer Turkish into English translations. Out of curiosity, I entered the text of article 24 of the Turkish constitution:

"Herkes, vicdan, dini inanç ve kanaat hürriyetine sahiptir.
14 üncü madde hükümlerine aykırı olmamak şartıyla ibadet, dini ayin ve törenler serbesttir.
Kimse, ibadete, dini ayin ve törenlere katılmaya, dini inanç ve kanaatlerini açıklamaya zorlanamaz; dini inanç ve kanaatlerinden dolayı kınanamaz ve suçlanamaz.
Din ve ahlak eğitim ve öğretimi Devletin gözetim ve denetimi altında yapılır. Din kültürü ve ahlak öğretimi ilk ve ortaöğretim kurumlarında okutulan zorunlu dersler arasında yer alır. Bunun dışındaki din eğitim ve öğretimi ancak, kişilerin kendi isteğine, küçüklerin de kanuni temsilcisinin talebine bağlıdır.
Kimse, Devletin sosyal, ekonomik, siyasi veya hukuki temel düzenini kısmen de olsa, din kurallarına dayandırma veya siyasi veya kişisel çıkar yahut nüfuz sağlama amacıyla her ne suretle olursa olsun, dini veya din duygularını yahut dince kutsal sayılan şeyleri istismar edemez ve kötüye kullanamaz."

and this is what Google translate produced:

"Everyone, of conscience, freedom of religious belief and conviction has.
Do not violate the provisions of Article 14 in terms of worship, religious ritual and ceremony is free.
No one to worship, to participate in religious ritual and ceremony, religious belief and conviction can not be forced to explain, because of religious belief and conviction can not be blamed and accused.
Religious and moral education and teaching is done under the supervision and control of the State. Religious culture and moral teaching of reading in primary and secondary institutions are included among the required courses. Besides training and teaching of the religion, but to the person's own desire, the legal representatives of minors to the request of.
No one, the State's social, economic, political or legal basis to order even if partially, to rules based on religion or political or personal interests or influence in order to provide her with copies matter, religious or religion or religious feelings of sacred things can not be exploited and can not abuse."

compared to the English translation offered at a Turkish government website:

http://www.byegm.gov.tr/mevzuat/anayasa/anayasa-ing.htm

"Everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religious belief and conviction.
Acts of worship, religious services, and ceremonies shall be conducted freely, provided that they do not violate the provisions of Article 14.
No one shall be compelled to worship, or to participate in religious ceremonies and rites, to reveal religious beliefs and convictions, or be blamed or accused because of his religious beliefs and convictions.
Education and instruction in religion and ethics shall be conducted under state supervision and control. Instruction in religious culture and moral education shall be compulsory in the curricula of primary and secondary schools. Other religious education and instruction shall be subject to the individual’s own desire, and in the case of minors, to the request of their legal representatives.
No one shall be allowed to exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings, or things held sacred by religion, in any manner whatsoever, for the purpose of personal or political influence, or for even partially basing the fundamental, social, economic, political, and legal order of the state on religious tenets."

Surely Google translate will have to improve a great deal before it can threaten human translators!


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:48
Finnish to English
It is rubbish Feb 4, 2009

No threat at all that I can see

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
French to English
Yes and no Feb 4, 2009

Tim Drayton wrote:
Surely Google translate will have to improve a great deal before it can threaten human translators!


Well, yes, but does anything make you think it won't improve?
I have to say that apart from the last bit starting "No-one....", I got the gist of it without any trouble.
I've got a couple of clients who write to me in German, and I use GT these days to grasp what they are saying, so far with no comedy or disastrous results. I write back in English and I believe they use GT too.

Quite truthfully, with belt-tightening all round combined with the fact that some translations really do not need to be perfect, I would say yes, GT could well be a threat to some segments.

Obviously not to the likes of us with our fully-researched, finely-honed, free-flowing, terminology-respecting literary masterpieces which frankly would not look out of place between covers of the finest vellum money can buy and then some, but y'know, for mundane corporate blather being sent out to the cubicle monkeys (and I'm sure we've all done some of that in our time, even if it makes my eyes bleed), it probably does an adequate job half the time.

We should not be blinkered about these things, even if, for the moment, it appears not to affect us directly.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 00:48
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
They have a long way to go Feb 4, 2009

Google translate's basic methodology seems to be challenged when dealing with languages that have very different syntactic structures. In translating from Turkish to English, it is has to convert a VOS language into a VSO language. What is required is a mechanism for identifying the noun or noun phrase near the beginning of the sentence that constitutes its subject and a transformation that will move the main verb from the end of the sentence so that it follows the subject. Only then will it be posible to establish meaningful statistical correlations between texts in the two languages that may provide the core of coherent, meaningful sentences.

The way that the word 'has' is left dangling at the end of its translation of the very simple sentence:

"Everyone, of conscience, freedom of religious belief and conviction has"

suggests that they have a long way to go towards achieving this.


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:48
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Spanish Constitution Feb 4, 2009

Did the same exercise with an article of the Spanish constitution:
"Se garantiza la libertad ideológica, religiosa y de culto de los individuos y las comunidades sin más limitación, en sus manifestaciones, que la necesaria para el mantenimiento del orden público protegido por la ley."

Google produced:
"Guarantees the freedom of ideology, religion and worship of individuals and communities without limitation, its manifestations, which may be necessary to maintain public order as protected by law."

Well, not quite there, but alright to grasp the idea. I think we should keep an eye on automatic translation, particularly if people are contributing with real translations that are processed and used in producing automatic translations.

As to Google translations are a threat, I only remember how 15 years ago CAT tools were going to force most translators to look for another job, a situation that has not happened at all. Let's not enter in panic mode, but let's prepare to be better translators, by training, seeking efficiency and educating our customers about the quality only a human translation can provide.


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Aniello Scognamiglio  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:48
English to German
+ ...
No and yes Feb 4, 2009

No!
No machine will ever fully replace a human translator.

Yes!
More and more translators will edit and review translations done by machines.


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Selcuk Akyuz  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 00:48
Member (2006)
English to Turkish
+ ...
Turkish > English translation is not easy even for human translators Feb 4, 2009

But it is clear that Google Translate totally fails.

Adım Tim (My name is Tim)
Google Translate: Step Time

Another "good" translation:

Adının Tim olduğunu söylüyor. (He says his name is Tim)
Google Translate: The name says Tim.


[Edited at 2009-02-04 12:12 GMT]


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
French to English
Turkish to Yoda? Feb 4, 2009

Tim Drayton wrote:
"Everyone, of conscience, freedom of religious belief and conviction has"


I reckon the wrong button you must have hit


What is required is a mechanism for identifying the noun or noun phrase near the beginning of the sentence that constitutes its subject and a transformation that will move the main verb from the end of the sentence so that it follows the subject. Only then will it be posible to establish meaningful statistical correlations between texts in the two languages that may provide the core of coherent, meaningful sentences.

I would guess (and it is a guess) that they simply haven't quite collected enough parallel texts yet. My understanding is that any kind of analysis of grammar has been abandonned, given the exponential rise in processing power, in favour of simply collecting enough translations/parallel texts to either find the exact phrase translated before or something similar enough to be worth a punt. Brute force and ignorance, as my grandparents would probably call it, to get the job done, not 'intelligence'.

Like others, I wouldn't be surprised to see us asked more and more often to tidy up the results of this stuff.
("Asked" note, I'm not saying we have to do it - individual business decisions and all that.)

I'm not running around yelling "doomed, doomed, we're all doomed", but neither am I complacent enough to think that MT cannot possibly affect me in my lifetime. Just an opinion, like. Probably a very dull one, since the middle ground is always a bit insipid. You probably need to be talking to a proper old doom merchant.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 22:48
Dutch to English
+ ...
Watch this space Feb 4, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:

You probably need to be talking to a proper old doom merchant.



No doubt the aquatic mammal will comment soon

[Edited at 2009-02-04 12:35 GMT]


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 00:48
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This kind of transformation is essential Feb 4, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Tim Drayton wrote:
"Everyone, of conscience, freedom of religious belief and conviction has"


I reckon the wrong button you must have hit


What is required is a mechanism for identifying the noun or noun phrase near the beginning of the sentence that constitutes its subject and a transformation that will move the main verb from the end of the sentence so that it follows the subject. Only then will it be posible to establish meaningful statistical correlations between texts in the two languages that may provide the core of coherent, meaningful sentences.


My understanding is that any kind of analysis of grammar has been abandonned, given the exponential rise in processing power, in favour of simply collecting enough translations/parallel texts to either find the exact phrase translated before or something similar enough to be worth a punt. Brute force and ignorance, as my grandparents would probably call it, to get the job done, not 'intelligence'.




Agreed, my understanding is that Google translate anlayses blocks of three words at a time and looks for statistical correlations. They will never succeed in translating from a VOS language to a VSO language in this way without introducing the kind of transformation I have described.


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Taija Hyvönen
Finland
Local time: 00:48
Member (2008)
English to Finnish
+ ...
MT Feb 4, 2009

I had Google translate the Russian constitution into FInnish and I have to say threatened I not feel do the words were actually Finnish, well almost all of them, but they did not form any kind of coherent sentences and having not read the original, I wouldn't have guessed it's a legal text.

If in the future I will be revising machine translations, and why would I not be doing that, I'll just charge enough for it. If the result is pure, original, well-written Finnish, I'm happy whether I had a hand in it or just supervised - I'm the language police

For manuals machine translation might actually take a burden off our shoulders! Or my shoulders at least. Sorry if you like doing manuals.

Anyway, we can't stop machine translation. We can and should be involved in developing them to keep up with what is happening with them and then take the jobs that come from that direction.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
French to English
Towards convergence moving Feb 4, 2009

Tim Drayton wrote:
Agreed, my understanding is that Google translate anlayses blocks of three words at a time and looks for statistical correlations. They will never succeed in translating from a VOS language to a VSO language in this way without introducing the kind of transformation I have described.


Yes, I have heard something similar.
However, I personally would hesistate to say "never" (that's just the kind of person I happen to be).
I doubt that it is worth the time and money now, but who knows whether in future the impetus might arise for GT to start analysing longer blocks?
In the specific case of Turkish, if Turkey joins the EU, perhaps that impetus would be provided?
Or if some shft in processing capacity suddenly makes it cheap as chips to analyse strings 20 words long in 10 years' time...?

Not trying to worry you or anything


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:48
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
How big of a threat is Google translate? Feb 4, 2009

That depends. Can Google post KudoZ questions?

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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 00:48
Turkish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It doesn't have to be Turkish Feb 4, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Tim Drayton wrote:
Agreed, my understanding is that Google translate anlayses blocks of three words at a time and looks for statistical correlations. They will never succeed in translating from a VOS language to a VSO language in this way without introducing the kind of transformation I have described.


Yes, I have heard something similar.
However, I personally would hesistate to say "never" (that's just the kind of person I happen to be).
I doubt that it is worth the time and money now, but who knows whether in future the impetus might arise for GT to start analysing longer blocks?
In the specific case of Turkish, if Turkey joins the EU, perhaps that impetus would be provided?
Or if some shft in processing capacity suddenly makes it cheap as chips to analyse strings 20 words long in 10 years' time...?

Not trying to worry you or anything


It doesn't have to be Turkish. There are many VOS languages out there which would probably require the same kind of transformation before any sort of statisticial corelations would make sense: Japanese, Hindi, Farsi to name but three. I would be interested to hear what translators from other such languages into English think.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:48
French to English
Or... Feb 4, 2009

Tim Drayton wrote:
It doesn't have to be Turkish. There are many VOS languages out there which would probably require the same kind of transformation before any sort of statisticial corelations would make sense: Japanese, Hindi, Farsi to name but three. I would be interested to hear what translators from other such languages into English think.

Yeah, sure, my point was simply that you appear to assuming this transformation would be needed because GT only analyses 3-word chunks.
I would contend that the 3-word limit is one which could conceivably be broken given the time, money, desire and need to do so, or indeed just if processing capacity takes another huge leap forward. And hence we should never say "never". That was all - just a minor point of logic, really. There are several variables to be considered, none of which (with the probable exception of the language structure in question!) is definitely fixed, in my humble opinion.


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