Google strategy: number of hits
Thread poster: Ilka Nahmmacher

Ilka Nahmmacher  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:54
Member (2005)
German to English
Apr 2, 2007

Hi. I use a certain strategy when googling for a translation and would like to know what others think about it.

I translate from German to English. When I fine the English complement to a German word, I enter the English term into Google and check the number of hits. Usually I also have to narrow the search with a few additional words to focus on the particular field.

When an English term is correct, it always has far more hits than the German term -- just because there are more English sites out there. When this is not the case, I know I've got the wrong term.

The only exception is when a German is word translated in various ways in English -- but even then I usually get more English hits.

What do you think about this?

The discussion actually started on this thread:
http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1847262


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:54
English to French
+ ...
Not 100% reliable Apr 2, 2007

I translate from English to French (and sometimes vice versa) and I use Google strategies also. However, I've found that it id not enough to simply take the term that has the most matches - you also have to check what the sources are and see if they are reliable. I often come across terms that have a heavier weight on Google than others, but that is only so because too many people misuse terms or misspell them. The result is that the incorrect term ends up having more wieght on Google than the correct one.

This is a good approach in the beginning, but if you can't establish a certain level of reliability of the more or less fifty first results, then your approach becomes virtually useless. For example, I sometimes get many ebay matches for technical terms, and they are all wrong. It's just that too many people don't know how to use that particular term.

Try to find a method to search parallel texts - I often search the Canadian government's sites as almost all of them are entirely available both in English and in French (if you want the same document in the other language, most of the time, you just have to replace EN by FR in the URL and vice versa). This is also not a 100% reliable method, but it is more reliable than ebay results.



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aruna yallapragada  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:24
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
not enough Apr 2, 2007

Arriving at a term is not enough. One has to go into these sites and look up if the terminology has been used in the same context. If the term has indeed been used in the same context then the translation is usually correct. That is the way I go about it.

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Catherine Brix
Local time: 14:54
Swedish to English
+ ...
Google guarantees nothing. Apr 2, 2007

Googling is a great way of accessing loads of information, some of which is brilliant, some not so. Your method presumes you're googling for the correct term - just because you get hits for something doesn't make it right.

Take my pet peeve for instance. The term "Capital Market Day". Google it and you get loads of hits. But look at the sources - Swedish, Finnish, German, Norwegian company translations. That's a definite warning sign. Yet every time I try to use the correct translation - either Investors Day or Analyst and Investors Day - Swedish companies inevitably protest - they've used the incorrect term for so long that it appears impossible to get them to change. And translators persist in using the incorrect term, either because they don't know better or because the customer gets what the customer wants.

Again, Google is a brilliant tool but it should be used with discernment. You can google for anything and find it - it doesn't make it right.

Just my opinion.

Catherine


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Ilka Nahmmacher  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:54
Member (2005)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
A "negative check" Apr 2, 2007

Victoria: Yes, you're right.

My method should be seen as a negative check. If there are too few hits, the word is most likely wrong. However, if the number of hits is large, the word is not necessarily right until further checks are made, like you suggest, of quality of hits, native language of hits, context of hits, etc.


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Barbara Wiegel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:54
English to German
+ ...
Unreliable Goolge hits Apr 2, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

I translate from English to French (and sometimes vice versa) and I use Google strategies also. However, I've found that it id not enough to simply take the term that has the most matches - you also have to check what the sources are and see if they are reliable. I often come across terms that have a heavier weight on Google than others, but that is only so because too many people misuse terms or misspell them. The result is that the incorrect term ends up having more wieght on Google than the correct one.



I have a perfect example to underscore Viktoria's cautious approach - namely, the German translation for the US Department for Homeland Security. When it was created, somebody must have translated it in a rush (a journalist/correspondent right before the newscast went on air?) and it ended up being referred to as "Heimatschutzministerium" (in major German news broadcasts), which is a literal translation of "homeland security" plus "ministry" and sounds quite rustic in German (it has a Bavarian touch to it, as in "let's guard the green mountain pastures up in the Alps".) The official translation (e.g. used by the US embassy in Germany) is "Ministerium für Innere Sicherheit" (ministry for inner security). If you google "Heimatschutzministerium" or "Heimatschutz-Ministerium" you get over 53.000 and 1.510 google hits respectively, which is quite high a number (if you ask me) for a "wrong" term. If you google the correct translation "Ministerium für Innere Sicherheit" you get a mere 538 hits - go figure....

Cheers,
Barbara


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Ilka Nahmmacher  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:54
Member (2005)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Focus on number of hits Apr 2, 2007

Thanks for your input, Barbara. Simply relying on Google for translations without careful scrutiny can be adventurous.
This was also discussed under this thread:

http://www.proz.com/post/447550#447550

My point here was to focus on the number of hits: Assuming that an English word is correct, does it (almost) always get more hits than the complementary German word (or French, Latvian, Russian, Twi, what have you) -- simply because there are more English sites?

Other Proz members disagreed with this idea and I was wondering what the general sentiment was.


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
Even "Negative" check is risky... Apr 2, 2007

Note that my experience is mainly technical. Sometimes I can use Google just as a rough and dirty approach, and usually looking for bilingual texts or web sites. Never as a validation, unless those texts belong to absolutely reliable sources (i.e. the owner of my original text - not always absolutely reliable, a terminology center, an specialized editor I know and trust...).

My experience is that sometimes a word may not appear too much just because the subject is uncommon. This does not mean that it is not correct. It can be correct in a particular situation and target readers... and that can be your case.

My humble opinion is that having a wrong idea repeated 32158 (or 68) times it does not make it any better (or worse).

See you around!

Ruth @ MW


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:54
German to English
+ ...
be careful with google hits Apr 2, 2007

First of all, the numbers are meaningless if you have not restricted the context sufficiently to exclude irrelevant hits (different subject area, part of a irrelevant phrase, etc.). This can be difficult.

Secondly, you have to be aware that English is used by many non-native speakers, and that there are innumerable English translations on the Web already with quality ranging from excellent to atrocious. All hits in 'non-native' documents, while not necessarily suspect, should at least be examined carefully.

Thirdly, in some cases you need to understand the appropriate register.

Finally, you should be aware that the operators of Google do not intend it to be used for linguistic research. In fact, many relatively common search terms in English (and probably in other langages) *intentionally* score hits with related words (e.g. child/children/child's) -- presumably because this increases the hit ratio, and that makes advertisers happy.

Ultimately, there's no substitute for knowledge of the subject area and intelligent evaluation of possible translations, particularly if you are translating into a language that is not your native language.

[Edited at 2007-04-02 12:52]


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Ilona Kangro  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 15:54
Member (2006)
Latvian to English
+ ...
Check out the sources Apr 2, 2007

I agree that google hits do not always reflect the correct usage/meaning of the term, therefore I always check the sources. If, for instance, the term has been widely used in the target language websites (namely, by native speakers) AND in the appropriate context or field of specialization, you can be pretty sure (which is still not a 100% guarantee) that you've got the hit.

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Andrew Steel  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:54
Spanish to English
Need for context Apr 3, 2007

Q. How many translators does it take to change a light bulb?
A. It depends on the context ...

Don't know if you've heard the above joke before, but there's a lot of truth in it.

A useful trick for adding context to English terminology searches on Google is to use the 'site:uk' filter. It only searches domains ending in .uk (i.e. co.uk, ac.uk, gov.uk, etc.) and gives you a better idea of the terms the natives use. I've provided the .uk example as I translate into UK English, but it's equally applicable to .fr, .de, .au etc.

You can also use the same filter to search individual domains, which is especially useful for huge sites operated by the likes of the EC (i.e. site:europa.eu) or multinationals.

HTH.


Regards,

Andrew


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Julian Wood  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:54
Czech to English
+ ...
Boolean searches and Google Tutorial Apr 3, 2007

Hi- an interesting thread
I am trying to learn Boolean searches, as they do narrow down the number of hits.
There is an art to using Google, but let's remember what a boon it is, compared to the Time before Google (I think)

Here is a part-general, part-Boolean tutorial on Google, simple but only 5 minutes, and I learnt a new thing or two
www.calgaryeducation.org/tutorials/googlesearch.htm

This is a rather basic Boolean tutorial
http://lib.colostate.edu/tutorials/boolean.html


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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:54
German to English
+ ...
Too many people are misinterpreting Ilka.... Apr 5, 2007

What Ilka was proposing was a negative check, and it is a very useful check. With some exceptions, you would expect a term in English to get more hits than the “equivalent” term in any other language, simply because English is by far the biggest language on the Internet. That doesn’t mean that, if the condition is fulfilled, you can stop worrying, but it might have stopped some bozo (who shall remain anonymous) on KudoZ from accepting the nonsensical “professional deontology” for Spanish deontología profesional, rather than the correct “professional ethics”.

Another exception to the general rule Ilka proposes, apart from her own of where there are multiple common English translations for one term, is where the term relates to a hot topic in the source-language culture.

Of course counting Google hits alone is a mark of complete amateurism and, let’s be frank, stupidity.


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Ilka Nahmmacher  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:54
Member (2005)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Example for Richard's exception Apr 5, 2007

Thanks, Richard. That's exactly what I mean and you've phrased it nicely. I wasn't able to bring my point across clearly.

Your exception to the rule had not occurred to me. Thanks. It also includes things that are more common in the source culture than in the other culture, like certain foods, wild animals, customs. But I am sure this extends to the technical field as well.

Some examples: Eisbein/pork knuckles, Weißbier/wheat beer


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xxxhelentrans
English to Chinese
Just a reference Apr 6, 2007

In my experiences, most of time, what I got from google search was just a reference to help me understand the terms new or strange to me. Seldom could I get a 100% matched translation.

Number of hits is not always reliable because the reason for hitting some page is complex...


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