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IBM makes a next-step Google, reportedly with automatic translation too
Thread poster: Alexandru Pojoga

Alexandru Pojoga
Romania
Local time: 15:07
Japanese to English
+ ...
Dec 26, 2004

A New York times article about a computer system made by IBM (called Piquant).

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/26/business/yourmoney/26techno.html?oref=login

"After scanning a news article about Canadian politics, the system responded correctly to the question, "Who is Canada's prime minister?" even though those exact words didn't appear in the article."

Also what caught my eye:

"The system automatically - and comprehensibly - translated the headlines and leads of each article. If you wanted to read more, you pressed a button and in 15 or 20 seconds had a good-enough translation."

Babelfish and the like have only reinforced out security that automatic translation was decades away. I wonder what this system is capable of.


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 15:07
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Yeah, right! Dec 27, 2004

Alexandru Pojoga wrote:

A New York times article about a computer system made by IBM (called Piquant).

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/26/business/yourmoney/26techno.html?oref=login

"After scanning a news article about Canadian politics, the system responded correctly to the question, "Who is Canada's prime minister?" even though those exact words didn't appear in the article."

Also what caught my eye:

"The system automatically - and comprehensibly - translated the headlines and leads of each article. If you wanted to read more, you pressed a button and in 15 or 20 seconds had a good-enough translation."

Babelfish and the like have only reinforced out security that automatic translation was decades away. I wonder what this system is capable of.


Automatic translation will never work for headlines. An example from this morning's newspaper: "Monty's new birdie". Firstly, most people outside the UK would not automaticly associate "Monty" with "Colin Montgomerie". Secondly, how would they translate "birdie", a delightful play on the slang "bird", meaning partner, and the golf term "birdie"? The day an automatic translation can come up with a decent headline for that I'll give up translation, but until then, my job is safe.

The other day someone was talking about how anyone "with a computer and who can speak a foreign language" can translate. Really? I never realised that being bilingual was enough to translate. I never realised I was wasting my time at University, because I'm already bilingual.

I notice the people who come out and say these things usually have no qualification or are qualified in something completely unrelated to translation.


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Jeff Allen  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:07
Member (2011)
Multiplelanguages
+ ...
MT and newspaper/newswire headlines Dec 27, 2004

Alexandru Pojoga wrote:
"The system automatically - and comprehensibly - translated the headlines and leads of each article. If you wanted to read more, you pressed a button and in 15 or 20 seconds had a good-enough translation."


Timothy Barton wrote:
Automatic translation will never work for headlines.


A little more precisely, fully automatic non-postedited machine translation will not work for the majority of headlines.

I headed up a machine translation lab in the late 90s for 2 years where we had human translators who were constantly translating newswire stories for several languages as training material for MT systems.

I've always said in my MT tutorials that MT systems/software have the most difficulty with:
* newspaper/newsline headlines
* movie titles
* online informal written chatting

The reason for difficulty with headlines is due to issues of readability and spatial economy. The journalists strip out the verbs, verb auxiliaries words and other linguistic functional elements to create headlines that remain at the phrase-level rather than sentence-level.

The same is true for MT in specific domains with headers, subheaders, titles, subtitles, in user manuals. Yet, in such contexts, it is much easier to deal with through terminology standardization efforts among authoring and translation teams. Once the words are adopted, they are submitted, translated and entered into the MT system and then produce much better translations. This is much harder to do with open-ended newspaper headlines.

MT is useful for newspaper headlines because such information is usually "perishable" (ie, not destined to be useful for very long), and often people do not want to pay for translating short-lived information.
However, I know of 1 or 2 companies that do translate headlines and newswire stories by using MT + postediting. I believe an article appeared on this topic in issue 50 (in 2001 or 2002) of MultiLingual Computing & Technology (www.multilingual.com).

Jeff
http://www.geocities.com/jeffallenpubs/
http://www.geocities.com/mtpostediting/


[Edited at 2004-12-29 13:11]


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IBM makes a next-step Google, reportedly with automatic translation too

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