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Does Google Translate render the human mind unnecessary?
Thread poster: Susan Welsh

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Apr 16, 2009

I try to avoid bitching about lousy rates, but this posting on another web portal (not ProZ) is so amazing that I can't resist:

"Bilingual Russian-English Translator to edit book
"Budget: Less than $500

"I am looking for a bilingual Russian-English translator to proof read and edit a travel guide. The book contains 200 listings of approximately 150 words each and in total there will be around 40,000 words.

"The book has been pre-translated using the Google Translate functionality and requires the translated Russian version to be made readable - at the moment it has about 85% accuracy but we need the text to flow and the copy to be of a high editorial quality.

"If this works out there are another 20 books in the series waiting to be checked in the same manner."

I can hardly wait.



Trinh Do  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Google Translate only burdens your mind Apr 16, 2009

Dear Susan,

Translating by this means only creates translations that are meaningless. You still have to use 100% of your mental capacity.

Quality is what counts and the budget is not worth it.

Proofreading a machine translation only results in doing the translation yourself. So, you will be doing the translation yourself.

for your own sake, stay away from this.

Best regards,



United States
Local time: 21:54
Japanese to English
85%? No way. Apr 16, 2009

85% accuracy with Russian? No way. Maybe 30 or 40% accuracy with Spanish or French, but they're overestimating it in hopes of duping someone into taking the job at a ridiculously low rate.

I take that back. When I used it to translate some Portuguese into English, I understood about 30 or 40% of what it was saying, but it was in no way an accurate translation in terms of grammar and syntax. It was simply beneficial for getting the gist. I should have said it might be 30 or 40% understandable not accurate.

[Edited at 2009-04-16 08:00 GMT]


Damian Harrison
Local time: 03:54
German to English
That sounds like a lot of fun Apr 16, 2009

I wonder how one should calculate something. And if you look at the effort already made, why not the same as the correction was launched.
But it should also give people the 40,000 words within 10 days of an edit ...

(this insightful comment was rendered unintelligible using Google Translate)

[Edited at 2009-04-16 04:46 GMT]


Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:54
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Suggestion Apr 16, 2009

Those companies that develop machine translation should also look into another business opportunity: inventing a machine editor/proofreader (and, to meet the standards, the next logical step would be to get a machine QA reviewer up and running). It's only in this case that both the human mind of ours and ourselves will be rendered unnecessary.



Trinh Do  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
I hope the companies developing machine translation feel the effect of the economic crisis Apr 16, 2009

Hi everyone,

It's about time to hold a G200 or G2000 summit about human translators and how to counter machine translations. Anyone condoning machine translation is to be excluded.

I wonder whether there will be any demonstrations as seen in London. We humans can translate for the police as machines don't know the intricacies of human speech, let alone do speech recognition.


Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
A funny true story... Apr 16, 2009

Right today, a friend of mine told me this story: He works in Italy as a steward for soccer matches, and often the audience and the teams come from abroad. He doesn't speak any foreign languages, so he tries to find help through Google for his foreign guests. Last time, he prepared some signs and banners for directions using Google machine translation for Russian, only to find out that the Russian people which read those signs were all cracking up, and even taking pics of his signs. We will never discover the real meaning of what he wrote but I am sure it had not much to do with the original source text...

Hope this little true story makes you feel a little bettericon_wink.gif


Trinh Do  Identity Verified
Member (2007)
English to Vietnamese
+ ...
Giuseppina's story Apr 16, 2009

Maybe your friend should try sign language (in English) and use the robots to do the signing as we humans are made redundant.

My homeland is Vietnam, a socialist country that defends workers' rights, so it's a good thing to send the Russian translation there and pay in US dollars (as Obama is president now and the reds love him). With the Cold War in the 1970s and early 1980s, there are some people who know both Russian and English, and they'll be willing to do human translation.
Maybe the Vietnam conflict lies in Russian and English languages.
Vietnam being backward (from some people's viewpoint) won't have machine translation available.

Just a few smilies for everyone!


John Farebrother  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
French to English
+ ...
Mindblowing Apr 16, 2009

If it's a mindless book then the readers probably won't notice


Igor Galiouk (X)
Local time: 04:54
English to Russian
ABSOLUTELY impossible Apr 16, 2009

Google translation from English into Russian? 85% accuracy? It must be a joke! I’m 1000 (one thousand) % sure this ‘editing’ job will turn into complete retranslation. And with that budget offered.... IMHO, the ‘client’ has a very vague idea about translation and editing.
And also, if they rely on 'machines' that much, why not simply running Spell & Grammar check in Word for the 'translated’ text instead of seeking for somebody to edit the book?

[Edited at 2009-04-16 07:35 GMT]


Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
English to Serbian
+ ...
No way Apr 16, 2009

Good luck to anyone who tries to correct all that for the mentioned price... he is going to need it.icon_biggrin.gif Also, this picture is worth seeing again:


Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
English to Turkish
+ ...
No, but maybe renders the babblings of the dreaming unconscious mind unnecessary Apr 16, 2009

I had tried it between Turkish and English - languages differing radically in syntax and idiomatic structure. Editing of what I had obtained would definitely last longer than translating from scratch or editing a human copy (even one produced by a lay person). I have no idea about Russian, but even if its syntax is closer to that of English (as compared to Turkish, at least), I'm sure the result would be more or less the same. Machine translation may give you a gist of something in a totally unknown language, and this is the beginning and end of its function. To use it to produce a publishable text, with a view that it could be polished and put into high quality by a human editor, one must be either out of his right mind or totally ignorant about the process of producing a text.

But this is my naive side speaking, of course. You'd better go for Casey's explanation aboveicon_biggrin.gif


Philip Watterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
French to English
+ ...
my contraversial view on machine translation Apr 16, 2009

I hope that no one shoots me down in flames for this point of view. I don't think many translators will agree with me. But here goes...

Everyone knows that the output of machine translation is currently laughable.
But the thing is that it's getting better.

I happen to believe that in 10 or 15 years time, these guys will have honed systems that will compete with human translators for some aspects of our work. I think this is a reality that we need to prepare ourselves for.

What added value will a human translator be able to offer over and above what a highly sophisticated AI-type computer can do? That will be our big challenge about a decade from now.
Our challenge will be about marketing. How do we sell ourselves?
There is a level of intercultural sensitivity that a human will always be able to offer and a computer can't. Will a computer be able to "do" humour?

Our market may eventually become a lot more of a niche that what we currently know.

Perhaps we will rebrand ourselves as intercultural copy-writers.

Interested to know other people's views about this. But don't shoot! Please!



Roy Williams  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
Member (2011)
German to English
Don't think so Apr 16, 2009

While I think at some point machine translation will become useful as a supplementary tool for human translators, I can't quite imagine them becoming advanced enough to simulate/duplicate the subtle nuances, wordplays and cultural expression of human communication. Especially not as soon as a decade. Maybe in the very distant future when mankind finally perfects the warp drive!


Ivette Camargo López  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:54
English to Spanish
+ ...
MT is a controversial subject Apr 16, 2009

Philip Watterson wrote:

I hope that no one shoots me down in flames for this point of view. I don't think many translators will agree with me. But here goes...

nterested to know other people's views about this. But don't shoot! Please!

Phil [/quote]

Hi Philip (and all),

I know you're only kidding about the "shooting" part of your comment, but the thing is that, as you know, MT is a very controversial subject to begin with (which seems to be often "revived" here in the forums).

Lately I am personally interested in this subject a lot, because, like you commented, I believe it is in the process of getting better and better, even if, obviously, it may never equal the quality that a human translation renders.

I recently interviewed an expert on MT about this and the future of translation (see my blog at ), and I will probably contact other experts about this in the near future, as I am merely curious about this subject.

My impression so far is that once MT is more and more refined and is used intelligently (that is, combined with human-based translation memories/terminology databases, as well as taking into account "controlled language"), it will certainly take, in the long run (soon enough/already?), an important chunk of the volume of specific types of translation (such as technical or merely repetitive translation).

In the interview in my blog it is mentioned that the clearest example of how MT is being used successfully is many of the translated articles of the Microsoft Knowledge Base, so this is no future science fiction.

I doubt, though, that MT will ever be used successfully for such complex language constructions such as jokes or irony, but who knows, it took a lot of tactics to beat Hal in "A Space Odyssey".icon_smile.gif

Time to go back to my manual/human translation tasks,


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