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Could translation software be smarter?
Thread poster: yeswhere

yeswhere
Local time: 17:20
German to English
+ ...
Mar 9, 2009

As an old-fashioned translator who has not yet become acquainted with translating software, I am sometimes amused and, less often, appalled at the errors made by automatic translation software.
This morning while doing some research I was reading some WW2 historical information on the following website:
www.ndr1radiomv.de/programm/erinnerungen/ndrmv62.html

On what seems to be a serious website with well documented facts, I was surprised to find the following automatic translation:

"Nach dem Bau einer Gaskammer Ende 1944, Anfang 1945 läßt die SS etwa 6.000 Häftlinge vergasen."

"After the construction of a gas chamber at the end of 1944, the beginning of 1945 the SS makes about 6,000 inmates carburetors."

I am sure some will find the error amusing, but in this context I think it could be upsetting and insulting to those who lost loved ones in the Holocaust.

My question is: Does anyone ever check these automatic translations? Also, why does a software programme for German translation not recognise upper and lower case. "Vergaser" meaning carburettor would always be written with a capital, which is distinctly different from vergasen, the verb ending in "en". It seems like a simple matter for such smart software.


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 17:20
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Contact them Mar 9, 2009

This morning I also came across some pretty bad French while looking up one of our provincial MPs, and I wrote her a note suggesting she have a native French professional edit her French language pages.

Who knows, you might get a client! At the very least you'll feel a little better having taken some sort of action, making these people aware of how their site presents their organisation.

Best,
Nancy


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yeswhere
Local time: 17:20
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good idea Mar 9, 2009

Good idea, Nancy. I just emailed them.

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Umang Dholabhai  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 02:50
Member
English to Gujarati
+ ...
..like off-key music Mar 9, 2009

Thats right Nancy. Rather than getting a client, it is like hearing off key notes or someone scratching a wall with bare nails.. that is how I feel while reading such texts. Such 'sopranos' ought to be reprimanded even if, with a feather whip.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:20
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Anyone want to buy a house at the bottom of a lime-pit? Mar 9, 2009

That's what a local estate agent here in the south of France was advertising. The French copy sounded really quite attractive, but at the time (pre exchange-rate problems) the most active house-buyers in the region were the British. This text had all the hallmarks of a machine translation, and a pretty poor one at that - I can't imagine there were many takers for the house!

I sent the agent a back-translation and suggested that a professional translation might be worth the investment - would you believe he never even had the courtesy to reply!

Edited to add this note: Just remembered another howler from the same ad - something about the local kitchen being very tasty. It takes a real-live translator to know what NOT to translate!

[Edited at 2009-03-09 20:36 GMT]


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 17:20
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Tasty kitchen LOL Mar 9, 2009

If your dog finds your kitchen tasty, it might be time to mop the floor...

Thanks Sheila, that indeed was a howler

Nancy


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Claudia Alvis  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 16:20
Partial member
Spanish
+ ...
A tasty kitchen. Yummy! Mar 9, 2009

^ LOL

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Edited to add this note: Just remembered another howler from the same ad - something about the local kitchen being very tasty.


Are you sure they weren't Hansel and Gretel Realtors?

[Edited at 2009-03-09 23:40 GMT]


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Michaela Müller
Germany
Local time: 23:20
English to German
+ ...
Quote Mar 10, 2009

Hi yeswhere,

Where did you find that English translation? When googling the phrase, it only appears in the context of your ProZ.com post here. Could you please give a direct link, so we can see if this is an automatic or a "human" translation?

Thanks,
Michaela


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:20
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Indeed, where? Mar 10, 2009

Google shows this forum thread as the only page with the English phrase. And the link you have supplied shows a page with German only (in fact, the text is here: http://www.ndr1radiomv.de/programm/erinnerungen/vor_der_teilung/aufseherinnen4.html). Please, be specific about the source of the translation that you find insulting.

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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:20
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
And there is better software! Mar 10, 2009

I have translated the German phrase with Promt 8.0 to Russian and got a meaningful translation without anything offensive.

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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:20
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
Why Holocaust only? Mar 10, 2009

yeswhere wrote:
upsetting and insulting to those who lost loved ones in the Holocaust.


Holocaust was only a part of all bloodshed, not even the biggest one.

By the way, my grandfather was killed in the war, and grandmother had to raise children in very unfavorable conditions both during the Nazi occupation and in the post-war Soviet Union. Still, I don’t find that translation upsetting and insulting.


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yeswhere
Local time: 17:20
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Back to the topic Mar 10, 2009

Great ! Back to the topic. I would like to believe that the software can actually advance translation skills and save time, before I am persuaded to join the ranks of machine-aided translators, but I still have little confidence when I see such howlers. In this case the two words are distinctly different and nouns in German are always capitalized and that is why I raised the question.

To Michaela Müller and Esperantismo, try this link:

http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.ndr1radiomv.de/programm/erinnerungen/vor_der_teilung/aufseherinnen2.html&ei=3FO2Sa2zFZ6DtwfQkdmlCQ&sa=X&oi=translate&resnum=2&ct=result&prev=/search?q=Ich+bin+unschuldig%22+-+Aufseherinnen+im+KZ+Ravensbr%C3%BCck&hl=en&sa=G

and then click on “for the full report”. The sentence is at the end of the first paragraph.

To Esperantismo: Other languages will certainly bring up different results. Perhaps someone with German to English software could try it and let us know.
Also, your question about “Why just holocaust?”
This topic is to discover the merits of machine translation, not to make any statements about who suffered the most during the war. But since you asked…..Personally, I believe there are no winners in any war, but the particular article in question concerns the thousands of innocents comprising Jews, Poles, Slavs, gypsies, blacks, physically handicapped, mentally retarded, homosexuals and so on, that were systematically annihilated in the gas chambers. I agree with you that there were millions of others who died, or suffered untold hardship, cruelty, injury, starvation and deprivation, my parents included, but they are not part of this article.

If you look again, I didn’t write that I was offended. To be honest, I confess that my first reaction was to laugh at the mistake, then on reflection I found it an ‘unfortunate’ translation considering the context, and my own reaction disrespectful to all those who were affected by those acts of genocide. That is why I raised the question of the efficiency and the monitoring of automatic translations.


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Rossana Triaca  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 18:20
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
MT != CAT Mar 10, 2009

yeswhere wrote:

Great ! Back to the topic. I would like to believe that the software can actually advance translation skills and save time, before I am persuaded to join the ranks of machine-aided translators, but I still have little confidence when I see such howlers.


I'm afraid you're confusing Machine Translation (MT) with CAT tools or TEnTs (Computer Aided Translation or Translation Environment Tools), which are two different things entirely.

Automated translation systems (such as the free Babelfish or Google's) are mostly useless unless the source texts use controlled language (and even then other expensive commercial solutions are used, not the free ones).

CATs are database systems with fuzzy logic search algorithms that feed on your own translations and glossaries (so any howlers produced there can only be attributed to the author).

If you're not using a CAT tool you're certainly missing out on some amazing benefits...


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Michaela Müller
Germany
Local time: 23:20
English to German
+ ...
Nothing to do with the website, right? Mar 10, 2009

yeswhere wrote:
...
On what seems to be a serious website with well documented facts, I was surprised to find the following automatic translation: ...


IMHO you cannot blame any website for incorrect or offensive translations if you simply use the Google translation service ... You could have certainly sent them a message if they had provided this translation into English themselves - but (sorry for saying this) it certainly doesn't show much Internet know-how if you complain to them about a translation delivered by the automated Google service.
A better solution would have been to offer them your translation services for English, stating that this information is useful for English native speakers and since they didn't have an English website version and the Google translation was (in your opinion) crappy, you would like to offer them a better translation.

Also, as Rosanna said, it seems you are confusing MT and CAT tools. I for myself don't know of any translator who uses MT for his/her translations (there are, of course, probably several who do so), so I cannot see "the ranks of machine-aided translators" (as per your definition = translators using Machine translation).


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esperantisto  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:20
Member (2006)
English to Russian
+ ...
It is Google Translator, Mar 10, 2009

yeswhere wrote:

To Michaela Müller and Esperantismo, try this link:

This topic is to discover the merits of machine translation


Google Translator is not a machine translation service, thus, using it won’t discover any merits or drawbacks of MT. It is sort of attempt to build word pairs from similar texts in different languages based on statistics of usages. Most probably, the frequency of appearance of “vergasen” in German texts is closest to the frequency of “carburettor” in English texts, and Google Translator believes, those words are equivalents, so, we get this funny result.

Michaella is right, you can’t blame Google Translator or any other software. Software can’t be smart or stupid, but the people are.


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