Why can software not do an acceptable translation from English into Arabic and vice versa?
Thread poster: Stuart Milne
Stuart Milne
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:03
French to English
Sep 15, 2009

Always being asked why human translation is necessary. Any answers would help

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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:03
French to English
+ ...
Who's asking, and what do you say? Sep 15, 2009

Hi Stuart,

It's a complex question. What do you say when someone asks? Are you being asked this by potential clients? And why Arabic and not any other language?


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Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 05:03
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
because Sep 15, 2009

If you have to explain it, the rates are probably not worth it...

look up " all your base belong to us" or " translation error"

or this article: http://www.economist.com/science/tq/displayStory.cfm?Story_id=1020823

SINCE its earliest days, machine translation—the use of computers to translate documents from one language to another automatically—has suffered from exaggerated claims and impossible expectations. One characteristic (but apocryphal) tale tells of an American military system designed to translate Russian into English, which is said to have rendered the famous Russian saying “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” into “The vodka is good but the meat is rotten.”

This sort of joke prompts a hollow laugh from those in the machine-translation (MT) business. It does so because it demonstrates both the difficulty of getting computers to understand human languages, and the high expectations that must be met if MT is to be taken seriously. Over the years, there have been a number of promising new approaches in the field, and ever-cheaper processing and storage technology have helped improve things. But progress has been painfully slow, and the decisive breakthrough that will transform the fortunes of MT has never appeared. …

Basically MT is like a box of chocolates. "You never know what you're gonna get"
and because you probably cannot understand what the output is, you are taking a huge gamble with your business, so spending a little on human translation (and proof reading) is an investement which can easily be earned back - the better your translation, the more you are going to sell in that other language (or the better your product/message / service will be perceived in a different country/culture /....

===
Ed


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Narcis Lozano Drago  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:03
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Understanding the text Sep 15, 2009

Simple answer: because you need to understand a text to translate it: meaning, context, what it is in the text, what it is only suggested, cultural background, etc.

Good translators can understand the text, see the whole picture; computers cannot do it, only analyze and guess (just like bad translators do). TM has improved, and in some pairs the gap between TM and bad translators has become smaller. But, in my opinion, this has more to do with humans translating like machines than with machines translating like humans (and the fact that TM at least remembers to spellcheck the whole mess).

Kind regards,

Narcis


[Edited at 2009-09-15 17:23 GMT]


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:03
German to Spanish
+ ...
Why can software not do an acceptable translation from English into Arabic and vice versa?" Sep 15, 2009

Stuart Milne wrote:

Always being asked why human translation is necessary. Any answers would help


I do not have the minor idea of Arabic. Nevertheless, from a completely foreign point of view, I would say that the linguistic, grammatical and etymological structures between Arabic and English are too far away between themselves.

For example, there exists translation software that may translates from Spanish to Catalan and on the contrary with a relative acceptable quality. But, at least, big part of his linguistic, grammatical and etymological structures comes from a common trunk: the Latin.


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 05:03
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
I second that .... Sep 15, 2009

Pablo Bouvier wrote:
... I would say that the linguistic, grammatical and etymological structures between Arabic and English are too far away between themselves.

Note that even NSA (with OBL being a very, should I say visible author of texts in Arabic language) employs human translators, on top of all the hardware and software, that's humming away in that black glass cube (aka Puzzle Palace).

regards

Vito


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:03
English to Russian
+ ...
Sorry for off-topic Sep 15, 2009

but
the question has reminded me a good joke.

A guy has invented an automatic shaving machine.
When he presents his apparatus to a patent commission saying - 'An individual inserts his face in the opening of the machine casing and he is being shaved' - they make him a question - 'But every man has his own face shape. How does your machine cope with this?'
The reply - Yes, indeed! Actually, before the first shaving, yes.


[Edited at 2009-09-15 19:11 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-09-15 19:27 GMT]


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:03
German to Spanish
+ ...
Why can software not do an acceptable translation from English into Arabic and vice versa? Sep 15, 2009

VitoSmolej wrote:

Pablo Bouvier wrote:
... I would say that the linguistic, grammatical and etymological structures between Arabic and English are too far away between themselves.

Note that even NSA (with OBL being a very, should I say visible author of texts in Arabic language) employs human translators, on top of all the hardware and software, that's humming away in that black glass cube (aka Puzzle Palace).

regards

Vito


You are right, "relative acceptable quality..." means that no software neither machine will do what human translators are able to do.


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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
It's all about the rule of supply and demand Sep 15, 2009

As long as people need it, machines won't translate for us. But as soon as machines feel that then need to read Shakespeare in C++, they'll certainly translate him. But even then I don't think they'll waste their time to translate Shakespeare in any of the human languages.

[Edited at 2009-09-15 21:01 GMT]


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Stuart Milne
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:03
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
...if I had a penny for the number of times I hear how good Google translate is... Sep 15, 2009

Edward Vreeburg wrote:

If you have to explain it, the rates are probably not worth it...


Basically MT is like a box of chocolates. "You never know what you're gonna get"
and because you probably cannot understand what the output is, you are taking a huge gamble with your business, so spending a little on human translation (and proof reading) is an investement which can easily be earned back - the better your translation, the more you are going to sell in that other language (or the better your product/message / service will be perceived in a different country/culture /....

===
Ed



Absolutely my sentiment - I translate French to English but get asked for other languages, the most recent being Arabic. Inevitably followed by the question of cost. Then the statement that all other countries speak English. Then a "That's quite expensive!".

I reply - how long did this document take to create? A day? A week? And how many people proofread the document or helped create it? So my cost to translate, then the cost of a proofreader seems insignificant.

Nice to hear that MT is not so good - honestly... if I had a penny for the number of times I hear how good Google translate is....


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 06:03
Turkish to English
+ ...
Structural similarity/difference Sep 16, 2009

My own observation is that machine translation produces the most acceptable results between languages that have similar syntactic structures. Arabic and English have very different structures and machine translation has a long way to go before it can make this kind of leap. From time to time I enter a piece of Turkish text into Google Translate and am happy to report (from my perspective as a Turkish into English translator) that it is generally unable even to get the basics right in its English translation - failing even to identify the main subject, object and verb of most sentences.

[Edited at 2009-09-16 07:42 GMT]


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