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Is this the future? Automatic simultaneous translation within 5 years?
Thread poster: Barnaby Capel-Dunn
Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
French to English
Oct 10, 2005

Herewith a translation of a short article appearing in the reputable French online journal "Génération Nouvelles Technologies" (http://www.generation-nt.com/actualites/).

"... Microsoft's founder thinks that within 5 years, the keyboard-voice-wiring on screen combination should revolutionise our way of working,in the same way as SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION WHICH SHOULD COME INTO EFFECT AT THIS TIME (my capitals)".
Oh well, we have been warned!

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2005-10-10 13:30]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:41
Flemish to English
+ ...
Yes, it is Oct 10, 2005

Two or three years ago, there was a topic on machine-translation. Everybody ridiculized M.T. My vision was that there would be an of CAT,M.T. and speech-recognition : The integration of Word,Trados,Systran and Dragon and a perfection of these tools within now and 10 years. Add to that the use of mobile phone networks and people can communicate without the help of a translator or interpreter.
Whenever Microsoft or its founder have a vision, they also have enough capital to realise that vision.
We are far away from the universal translator as portrayed in Star Trek, but this S.F.-series has been the basis for quite a number of technological tools we use today.

[Edited at 2005-10-10 12:08]


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Nick Lingris  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:41
Member (2006)
English to Greek
+ ...
Just more machine translation Oct 10, 2005

Is anyone familiar with a machine translation system that has, say, two glosses for one term and knows when to use which?

Do you know of a machine translation system that, when translating from English into a language with "tu" and "vous" (such as French or Greek), it would know whether it should translate "you"-forms into singular or plural?

Greek readers, do you think there'll ever be a translation system that would know whether "love" should be translated as "agape" or "eros"?

I believe machine translation (not in its present state) might relieve us of some of the drudgery, but the human translator will be around for many many years to come, and the Babel fish will belong to the imaginations of the Douglas Adamses of this world.


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Don't worry.. Oct 10, 2005

The fact, that the means of transportation have been improved in the last century does not mean that there are less loads to carry..

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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:41
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
No, it isn't Oct 10, 2005

A few years ago, before getting into translation, I would have agreed with Barnaby Capel-Dunn and Williamson. Not now, having studied the subject, and spoken to some experts at the forefront of research into the machine translation.

The problem is that machine translation requires not just linguistic knowledge, but knowledge about the world. That, it turns out, is incredibly difficult to program, and ultimately MT is only as good as the program that drives it, and therefore only as good as the programmers who wrote it in the first place.

Take one of the favourite MT examples :

The monkey ate the banana because it was hungry.

If you translate that sentence into French or German, you need to know the gender of 'it'. The word 'hungry' tells you clearly that 'it' refers to the monkey, (masculine in French and German) and 'it' must therefore be masculine. Then take:

The monkey ate the banana because it was ripe.

Only bananas can be ripe, they are feminine in French and German, so now 'it' is feminine. Then take:

The monkey ate the banana because it was time for tea.

What gender for 'it'? Neuter?

The point is, how do you write a computer program that can correctly translate 'it' in this and similar contexts? Humans can easily identify this from the context, but it's much harder to store all that knowledge in a computer program or database - and even then, it is inevitably highly subjective.

So while I don't doubt for a moment that machine translation has improved and will go on improving, real progress will not be achieved until we have a much more solid theoretical basis for translation. That is far more important than computer processing power or Microsoft capital. Star Trek may have forecast other tools, but on this front it is premature.

PS I fully agree with other aspects, CAT and speech recognition (This message was done entirely using speech recognition).


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
What do we mean by "simultaneous translation" Oct 10, 2005

Many thanks for your illuminating comments.

I translated "traduction simultanée" by "simultaneous translation", but as those of us working between French and English know, the expression usually refers to simultaneous INTERPRETING, as at the UN, etc. Is that what Bill Gates had in mind? Speaking as a translator and not an interpreter, I certainly hope so!


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Timothy Barton
Local time: 04:41
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
What is tea? Oct 10, 2005

Then take:

The monkey ate the banana because it was time for tea.

What gender for 'it'? Neuter?



Not to mention the various possible meanings of "tea", which depend on context as well as location and social class.

Is anyone else getting bored of these scare stories?


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Harry Bornemann  Identity Verified
Mexico
English to German
+ ...
Not getting bored.. Oct 10, 2005

Is anyone else getting bored of these scare stories?

Nope, they are still good for translation..


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
German to English
+ ...
Beam me up, Billy Oct 10, 2005

Williamson wrote:

Whenever Microsoft or its founder have a vision, they also have enough capital to realise that vision.


[Edited at 2005-10-10 13:34]


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Scare stories Oct 10, 2005

Timothy Barton wrote:

Then take:

The monkey ate the banana because it was time for tea.

What gender for 'it'? Neuter?



Not to mention the various possible meanings of "tea", which depend on context as well as location and social class.

Is anyone else getting bored of these scare stories?


Timothy,
I don't look upon them as "scare stories". On the contrary, I find them extremely interesting and challenging, if sometimes naive. The profession has already changed almost out of recognition in the the 10 years or so that I have been involved in it. Curiously enough, I think that the need to adapt to new tools is probably what continues to make the business so interesting - as much as, if not actually more so, than the actual process of translating!


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:41
German to English
MS translation Oct 10, 2005

Just because MS is developing MT tools (it's been investing rather heavily in this field for some time now, they even have some patents registered) doesn't mean that they'll be able to develop more than quite rudimentary translation solutions. Probably sufficient to make inroads into the (vast) low end of the translation market, though. Within the next 5 to 8 years or so, anybody who's making a living(?) translating texts at 4 or 5 cents a word should be getting very worried.

Disambiguation is the "silver bullet" of MT, and nobody's come even remotely close to cracking that particular problem using MT. But there again, most humans can't hack it either (which is why there is such a massive market for cheap 'n nasty translations).


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Myriam Garcia Bernabe  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:41
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
MT has been around for some time Oct 10, 2005

Dear Colleagues,

Machine Translation has been around for a few decades now. A lot of companies and organisations have funded MT projects and launched products such as Power Translator, Systran to name a few. All of these systems have proved to be only as robust as their terminology banks, post-editing and grammar algorithms.

This is a whole area of very interesting research that has used corpora-based, statistical-based, knowledge-based systems and even "intelligent" systems. However, it has so far always required human intervention. This why I imagine that some areas have branched out into TM and CAT tools.

Regards,
Myriam


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:41
German to English
Promises, promises Oct 10, 2005

Before I forget: I was at both the 1995 (Luxembourg) and 1997 (San Diego) MT Summits, and there was no lack of promises of NHQMT (near human quality MT, the 'holy grail' of MT researchers) "within five years" back then.

It's one of the claims that researchers make so they can get funding for their dinky little toy systems. I'm sure they'll be doing it in 2095 and 2097, too.


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Barnaby Capel-Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:41
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Of MT and CAT Oct 10, 2005

I wonder whether we aren't barking up the wrong tree in concentrating our attention (and scorn) on MT.
If we accept that CAT is basically a question of harnessing the contents of our hard disk for the purposes of translation, why shouldn't a similar approach covering the whole of the Internet be used in the years ahead? Strides have already been made in this direction, e.g. Transearch.


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Gabriel Aramburo Siegert
Local time: 21:41
English to Spanish
+ ...
It is not. Oct 10, 2005

I agree with Peter Linton. One cannot overlook ideas like Roger Penroses argument by which, using impeccable science, he shows that there are elements of mystery in the workings of the human mind which distinguish it fundamentally from any machine we can conceive of constructing.

We will have machines translating some sort of technical leaflets, but translating for example One Hundred Years of Solitude is a totally different task. That's art. That's even undefinable and machines do need definitions. That's interpretation instead of translation.

By the time machines could have emotions, we would see them competing with human linguistics. I have always heard that in the domain of human intelligence, semiotics and linguistics are the "top of the heap", far over science, technology, math and the rest.

The arguments of gender that Peter brings, to me, are a good example of the difficulties we can find on this scenario. But it's not only that. Once again, translating is not translating. It is interpreting. Just you make a machine that loves. It'd take the whole solar system in space to imitate a tiny percentage of this capacity. Not even quantum computers could approach the challenge.

So, translators (interpreters), just rest and sleep well if you are really professional. No machine will ever "translate" Romeo and Juliet from English to whatever. By the way, Roger Penrose is still alive. Ask him why.


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