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Rule-based MT vs. Statistical MT: Does it Matter?


One of the current debates in the MT community is stated in the title of this entry. While I do have a clear bias that favors SMT I have tried to be fair and have written many times on this subject. I agree that it cannot be said that one approach is definitely ALWAYS better than the other. There are many successful uses of both. In fact, at this point in time there may be more examples of RbMT successes since it has been around longer.

However, there is clear evidence that SMT continues to gain momentum and is increasingly the preferred approach. RbMT has been around for 50 years and the MT engines we see around are in many cases the result of decades of investment and research. SMT is barely 5+ years old in terms of being commercially available since Kevin Knight began his research at USC in 2000 and is only just beginning to become available in the market.

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Google, Bing and Babelfish


I’ve just participated in the Which Engine Translates Best? survey, designed to test which among three leading free translation engines is best (for more details, see this post of mine, from a few days ago).

At least for gisting, both Bing Translator and Google Translate can prove surprisingly useful. I had expected Google to be the best of three engines, and, in my opinion, so it proved in this test, but Bing came a close second. A nice thing about Bing is that, unlike Google, it warns of its limitations: “Automatic translation can help you understand the gist of the translated text but is no substitute for a professional human translator” is prominently displayed in the Bing page, while Google Translate says nothing of the sort.

Babelfish made a complete mess of all translation samples (at least for English into Italian: I’ll probably test again the engines using different language pairs), and also turned everything to all uppercase.

Pity that Babelfish is so clearly outmatched by the other engines: with a name that directly refers to Douglas Adams’ stroke of genius, the science-fiction fan in me would love to see it shine brighter.

Japanische Forscher übersetzen Babysprache

By: Elodie Bonnafous

Excerpt from an article at

Essen, Spielen, Nuckel? Viele Jungeltern fragen sich beim Weinen und Schreien ihrer kleinen Wonneproppen: Was will mein Kind bloß? Japanische Forscher haben jetzt vielleicht die Lösung gefunden: einen Babysprachen-Übersetzer. Das Computerprogramm soll an den Lauten von Babys erkennen, was sie brauchen.

er Schreie und das Klangspektrum der Laute – und findet so heraus, ob das Kind Hunger oder Schmerzen hat oder vielleicht einfach nur müde ist.

Die Wissenschaftlicher der Universität Hiroshima: „Unglücklicherweise bieten Eltern-Ratgeber keinen Leitfaden, um festzustellen, was das Schreien bedeutet. Zukünftige Babyphone könnten das Schreien zuverlässig übersetzen.“

Auch iPhone-Nutzer haben bereits Zugang zu einem Schrei-Übersetzer, der von einem spanischen Kinderarzt entwickelt wurde. Die Trefferquote liegt angeblich bei 96 Prozent, aber die Bewertungen der Nutzer sind unterschiedlich.

Berbice Dutch has been declared officially extinct

Source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

Excerpt from an Radio Netherlands Worldwide:

Berbice Dutch, a Dutch creole spoken in part of Guyana, has been declared officially extinct, according to an article in the March issue of the Dutch edition of National Geographic.

Berbice Dutch was spoken in plantations along the River Berbice, part of Guyana which was once a private colony founded by a Dutch planter from Zeeland. It is a mixture of the Zeeland dialect of Dutch, the local Arawak Indian language and Ijo, spoken by slaves from Nigeria.

Washington will cut interpreter services for Medicaid patients

Source: The Seattle Times
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

Excerpt from an article at New York Times:

In Washington, legal residents with limited or no English proficiency are able to get health-care coverage through the Medicaid program. With that coverage comes interpreter services for the patient. However, if the current version of the governor’s budget passes, interpreter services will be cut, having a devastating impact on the care of Medicaid patients, not to mention an increased cost to taxpayers.

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US translator invited to visit Iran in connection with literary translation project

Source: Tehran Times
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

U.S. translator Paul Sprachman will travel to Iran once again in May in order to visit the narrator of “Da”, a Persian novel on the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.

Sprachman, who has been invited by the Center for Creation of Literary Works of the Art Bureau, is also scheduled to report on the progress he has made in translation of the novel so far during his two-week sojourn in Tehran.

See: Tehran Times

Philippines sign agreement to reintroduce Spanish language instruction at public schools

Source: Inquirer Global Nation
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

MADRID—Spain will help the Philippines reintroduce Spanish language instruction at public schools in the southeastern Asian country under an agreement signed Tuesday between the two nations.

The study of the language is currently voluntary at public high schools in the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, but the government plans to make its availability widespread from 2012.

Under the agreement signed Tuesday, Madrid will help train Spanish language teachers in the Philippines, help develop the curriculum and provide electronic teaching aids as well as technical advice, the Spanish foreign ministry said.

Read more at: Inquirer Global Nation

First UV International Conference on Interpreting and Translation – Education, Theory and Practice December 10-12, 2010


The Organizing Committee of the First UV International Conference on Interpreting and Translation: Education, Theory and Practice is pleased and honored to invite you to take part in the conference to be held at University of Vlora, Albania, on December 10-12, 2010.

The main goal of this international conference is to bring together scholars from all around the world to exchange ideas, share experiences and address current theories, issues and techniques that focus on interpreter and translator education and training, interpretation and translation theory and professional practice.

Abstracts for papers that deal with the following three areas are welcome:

  • interpreter and translator education and training
  • theory of interpretation and translation
  • practical aspects of the translator and interpreter profession

Academic activities will consist of:

  • presentations, given by academics and professionals able to make significant contributions to any of the three areas defined;
  • 20-minute talks selected from all the abstracts submitted to the conference;
  • posters, previously selected by the Programme Committee.
    Furthermore, there may be a round table panel (to be announced) on more specific aspects of interpreting and translation.

For more information or submission of abstracts, please contact:

Erida Prifti

Conference website:

Professor collects translations of Harry Potter in 67 languages

Source: PR Web
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

The adventures of Harry Potter now have a worldwide audience, but just how easy is translating words like ‘quidditch’ and ‘Slytherin’ into languages like Mongolian, Urdu, and Ancient Greek?
U of C professor Nick Zekulin stands by his large Harry Potter collection.
U of C professor Nick Zekulin stands by his large Harry Potter collection.

Nick Zekulin, a professor of Russian at the University of Calgary, has collected 67 translated volumes of the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The collection includes volumes from around the world in Faroese, Icelandic, Latin and Occitan and helps illustrate the challenges of translating the world of Harry Potter.

“The huge number of Harry Potter books sold in other languages draws attention to the role of translators as cultural mediators and facilitators,” says Florentine Strzelczyk, director of the U of C’s Language Research Centre, a hub for researchers investigating language. “A translator’s role is to not only translate, but also to adapt the tone, humour and suspense of the narrative to the cultures and languages in which the story is going to be received.”

See: PR Web: “How Do You Say ‘Muggle’ in Ancient Greek?”

Joint Commission Defining Standards for Medical Interpreters in US

Source: HealthLeaders Media
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Until recently, however, there has been no national standard by which to evaluate medical interpreters. Even national requirements on the part of hospital accreditors were lax. In January 2010, however, The Joint Commission released new standards concerning patient-provider communication, that will be implemented no sooner than January 1, 2011. One standard specifically will address qualifications for language interpreters and translators.

Certification opportunities are opening up as well. In October 2009, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) launched the National Medical Interpreter Certification and hopes to have the first 500 interpreters certified by June. The certification helps define a qualified, proficient medical interpreter.

See: HealthLeaders Media (US)

Haitian-born interpreter guides patients at UNC

Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

A native of Haiti, he has been tapped by the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Hospitals to interpret the gruesome experiences of three Haitians who were severely burned in the Jan. 12 earthquake and flown to North Carolina for treatment.

His work – part cultural ambassador, part medical decoder – has thrust him into the lives of the traumatized patients and helped them understand the experience of being snatched from devastation into a sophisticated medical hub with a language all its own.

“They rely on me,” Giordani said. “Even if Haiti is a poor place, what happened for people to survive is helping each other. I told them, I will always be here for them.”

Giordani, who speaks French and Creole, was hired through an agency UNC Hospitals works with, Accessible Languages Inc. The service meets a growing need in North Carolina, where the population is increasingly diverse.

The greatest demand is for people who speak Spanish, and UNC Hospitals has 26 Spanish interpreters on staff armed with iPods for instant translations of esoteric body parts or answers to other medical questions. Last year, the hospital had more than 65,000 requests for its Spanish interpreters. .

In addition, the hospital hires contractors such as Giordani when less common language skills are needed, and uses special telephone technology to access interpretive services worldwide.

“The vocabulary is enormously complex,” said Shane Rogers, director of interpreter services for UNC Hospitals. “They could be interpreting as a physician explains an orthopedic procedure, and 20 minutes later discussing a brain tumor. They have to go from discipline to discipline and have a good grasp of the medical terminology no matter who they’re interpreting for.”

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Over-the-phone interpretation continues to grow despite U.S. economy

Source: PR Newswire
Story flagged by: Jared Tabor

MONTEREY, Calif., Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ — The weak economy has not stalled the demand for language services that help businesses and organizations communicate with their limited-English speaking customers, according to a recent report by Language Line Services. 2009 year-end results from Language Line(R) LanguageTrak, the company’s proprietary service which provides real-time demographic information on language trends, revealed triple-digit spikes in language interpreter requests for 20 major U.S. cities, and a thousand percent year-to-year increase in demand for emerging languages such as Nepali, Kirundi and Cantonese.


While New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston continue to lead the country in overall demand for interpretation services, according to LanguageTrak, Baltimore experienced the greatest increase (3,025 percent) in demand for foreign language interpretation in 2009 over the previous year.  Other American cities that showed substantial increases in demand over the same period were Fort Worth, Memphis, Detroit, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Austin and Indianapolis (

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Entretien avec un traducteur littéraire

By: Elodie Bonnafous

On ne leur donne pas souvent la parole, aux traducteurs, on les snobe : c’est tellement facile… Alors, quand on a la chance de rencontrer Brice Matthieussent, traducteur de référence en matière de littérature américaine, on tente de se racheter en l’écoutant attentivement. Histoire de vérifier ce qu’on pressentait : le traducteur est peut-être dans l’ombre, mais il est essentiel.

Pour les passionnés de littérature américaine, Brice Matthieussent n’est pas un inconnu. Forcément. A force de lire son nom (« Traduit de l’américain par Brice Matthieussent ») écrit en petit sur la page de garde de nos livres de chevet, d’un l’œil négligent, on a fini par l’enregistrer dans notre mémoire. Vaguement. Sans trop y prêter attention. Ne niez pas, on fonctionne tous comme ça : on se rue sur l’auteur, on en oublie le reste. Read more

Ohio program provides guidance on proper role and use of interpreters in legal proceedings

Source: Ohio Supreme Court
Story flagged by: Mohamed Abdi

The Interpreter Services Program provides technical assistance, training, and learning opportunities for the courts, interpreters, and other important stakeholders on the proper role and use of interpreters in legal proceedings. The Interpreter Services Program also assists courts in the state of Ohio in developing policies, procedures, standards, and mechanisms to provide linguistic minorities and deaf and hard of hearing communities equal access to the courts.

PayPal blocks Personal Payment to and from India

By: Webdunia

PayPal Inc, the online payments service owned by eBay, has suddenly taken the unusual step of blocking all personal transactions to and from India for more than a week without any prior notice.

A spokesman for the service said on Saturday that “personal payments” to and from India are being blocked even Transfers to banks in India are being suspended as well.

Anuj Nayar, the director for global communications at PayPal, said PayPal is taking the step while it answers questions that have arisen about the service. He declined to elaborate. Nayar said the suspensions began Jan 28.He wrote in a blog post that PayPal hopes “to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.”

This move from PayPal has left thousands of its Indian users including especially IT coders who work with many entities overseas and receive payments through PayPal, high and dry. Users whose transactions have been reversed are venting their frustration on online forums and message boards. Funds requested through PayPal India are being reversed to their senders, and users have no access to them.

Last year in November, the Indian government had issued a notification for prevention of money laundering. Under this notification, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked all banks and financial institutions to maintain proper record of all transactions and verify identity and address of a non-account based customer or a walk-in customer.Payments to and from PayPal to its account users in India may also involve the foreign exchange maintenance act (FEMA) that has been under a cloud over the black money issue. On Friday, many renowned personalities had filed another petition in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Indian government to bring back unaccounted black money to the tune of around Rs65 lakh crore (Rs65 trillion) stashed away in banks abroad.

Although PayPal provides money transfer service to and from India, neither the company nor its account holders pay any tax on the transaction. Many Indian account holders ask their payee to make the payment as a ‘gift’ rather than payment for services to avoid PayPal fees. When contacted to know about the PayPal issue, an RBI official said.

La traduction: un marché de 15 milliards de dollars

By: Elodie Bonnafous

Common Sense Advisory, une société d’étude et de conseil américaine spécialisée dans le secteur de la traduction et de la localisation, qui suit le marché avec beaucoup de précision depuis plusieurs années, estime que le marché mondial de la traduction représente en 2009 un poids global de 15 milliards de dollars (soit, par exemple, l’équivalent du marché de la musique en ligne), et qu’il est en croissance régulière de 15% par an. En 2005, la croissance annuelle était estimée à seulement 12% par la société d’étude IDC. L’Europe constitue la zone la plus importante de ce marché, avec 43%. Elle est suivie des Etats-Unis (40%), de l’Asie (12%), et du reste du monde (5%).

Plusieurs faits remarquables caractérisent ce marché :

  • Il s’agit d’un marché très fragmenté, presqu’entièrement détenu par les petites structures. En effet, le chiffre d’affaires cumulé des 30 acteurs les plus importants ne représente guère que 27% du marché total.
  • Au sein même de cette liste des 30 acteurs les plus importants, les disparités de taille sont énormes : quoi de commun entre Global Linguist Solutions (environ 700 millions de dollars), le numéro 1, et SEPROTEC, numéro 30, qui réalise seulement 20 millions de dollars de CA ?
  • Les principaux acteurs du marché sont installés aux Etats-Unis (59% des trente grands) et au Royaume Uni (16% d’entre eux). Seule une société française fait partie des « grands » de la traduction professionnelle, et encore s’agit-il de la filiale spécialisée de… Hewlett-Packard !
  • Au sein de ce marché, certaines entreprises vivent une croissance extrêmement forte. D’une année sur l’autre, il n’est pas rare d’observer, chez tel ou tel acteur, une croissance supérieure à 20%, avec, parfois, des doublements de taille. Deux raisons principales : l’obtention de gros contrats pluri-annuels avec certains grands clients, et, le plus souvent, l’acquisition d’entreprises concurrentes. Car, sur ce marché très dynamique, les consolidations vont bon train… sans pour autant réduire le taux de fragmentation, dû à l’arrivée constante de nouveaux intervenants.
  • Le marché de la traduction-localisation est aussi très sensible à la parité entre le dollar et l’euro. En effet, les principales firmes comme les principaux clients sont américains : la traduction est donc souvent vendue en dollars. Mais on traduit avant tout vers les langues européennes, et les achats sont donc réalisés en euros. Le dollar étant aujourd’hui particulièrement faible face à l?euro, il fragilise la compétitivité des grandes entreprises de traduction, ce qui se répercute sur toute la chaîne, car la pression est forte sur les tarifs à l’achat. (De grandes structures américaines de traduction achètent à des plus petites, basées en europe, qui achètent elles-mêmes à des traducteurs indépendants).

PR Consultants Advise Toyota Chief To Speak Japanese, Use Interpreters, in US Hearing

Source: Ottawa Citizen
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

A Toyota source said it not yet been decided whether Toyoda, the highest-profile Japanese executive to face a such a grilling from Congress, would speak in Japanese or English. But the company has already contacted some translation companies, the source said, while PR consultants said he should speak only in Japanese.

“His use of English has been his way of showing sincerity, of communicating directly with the (international) audience, but this is a crisis situation,” said Masato Takahashi, a public relations consultant who advises companies on crisis management.

“He should have just spoken Japanese and he should stick to Japanese from now on too. It’ll be safer and leave less room for mistakes.”

See: Ottawa Citizen: “Toyota boss gears up for grilling”

Translation company Sajan completes merger, comments on future of industry

Source: PR Newswire
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

HILLSBORO, Ore. and RIVER FALLS, Wis., Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ — MathStar, Inc. (Pink Sheets: MATH) (“MathStar”) and Sajan, Inc. (“Sajan”), a Minnesota corporation and a provider of language translation services and technology, today announced the completion of the merger of Sajan with Garuda Acquisition, LLC (the “Sub”), a Delaware limited liability company and wholly-owned subsidiary of MathStar.

“This transaction is a significant milestone for Sajan, and we believe that it is also an important milestone for the market at large,” said Zimmerman. “The localization industry is in the midst of a much needed change – the nexus of new market dynamics, unprecedented technological innovation and a new breed of service providers that understand what it means to do business in the 21st century.”

See: PR Newswire

Judge must decide whether man’s English ability was sufficient to allow testimony collected without an interpreter

Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Does a Russian-speaking man know enough English to have understood his rights when he talked to police about his alleged of abuse of a corpse and evidence tampering?

In a hearing Tuesday, a Hamilton Township detective testified that Ermek Abdildaev, 40, seemed to understand English just fine when he talked with him. But Abdildaev’s wife raised questions about whether he understands the difference between one’s “rights” under the law and the word “right” as an indicator of direction.

Judge James Flannery must decide whether prosecutors can use against Abdildaev videotaped statements he made to police…


Machine Translation Company Language Weaver announces 40% growth in 2009

Source: MarketWire
Story flagged by: Henry Dotterer

Language Weaver, “the leader in trusted automated translation solutions”, announced 40 percent growth year-on-year in 2009. See:

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