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Poll: Will machine translation ever replace human translation entirely?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 01:05
SITE STAFF
Oct 8, 2007

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Will machine translation ever replace human translation entirely?".

This poll was originally submitted by Paulo César Mendes MD

View the poll here

A forum topic will appear each time a new poll is run. For more information, see: http://proz.com/topic/33629


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 05:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other ... Oct 8, 2007

In my opinion, machine translation will never replace human translation entirely, but I answered 'other' because I believe the primary reason for MT's foreseeable failure is not its impracticability (although that is certainly a major weakness...) but, rather, the likelihood that it will become unnecessary as a mechanism for international and intercultural understanding before it reaches its full potential and before it has a fair chance of becoming a real competitor for human translation.

Other recent threads here on Proz.com have highlighted the disappearance of many 'smaller' languages, the perceived hegemony of the English language in world affairs and, indeed, the threat to 'good' English posed by its inadequate use by non-natives under pressure from the global economy to 'get by in English' rather than using professional translation/interpretation services to ensure their message is being read and heard without distortion.

Those trends reflect (part of) the evolution of language use and, within that 'lowest common denominator' context, I firmly believe translation and interpretation will fade from use and the world will end up (long after I'm gone...) with a single 'mish-popot' language drawing on the worst features of many of today's languages. I further predict that that will happen long before MT gets up to speed in the 'real world'.

Paradoxically, in such a scenario, MT could - despite its detractors - be the saving grace for many threatened languages - if only it were applied to those languages and not to the 'top 10' languages, as is the case today. But that's moving off topic ...

MediaMatrix


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elen_d
Local time: 10:05
English to French
+ ...
No, never Oct 8, 2007

NO, NEVER!!!!!



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Vadim Poguliaev  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:05
English to Russian
One anwer is missing Oct 8, 2007

It will, but only partially. There are certain kinds of text, that can be produced by mighty translator someday, given the well-taught algorithm and populated TM. First candidate is MS help and certain kinds of law texts. However, MT will never be applied in marketing, ads, more complicated technical texts etc.

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Beatriz Galiano
Argentina
Local time: 05:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
No, its just not possible. Oct 8, 2007

Machines are logical systems and they can only produce logical patterns and human beings, on the other hand, are able to perform both, logical and non-logical interpretations. Unless the piece is too short, or a list with exact translation possibilities, the human mind will be needed for translations and other forms of linguistic production and/or constructions.

[Edited at 2007-10-08 16:16]



[Edited at 2007-10-08 18:02]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:05
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Can you compute the human mind? Oct 8, 2007

If you can, you can translate languages automatically. The challenge is really computing communication as a projection and exercise of the mind, not computing the technicalities of the language or the meanings of the words.

Whether computing communication as a projection of the mind can be achieved in my lifetime... I honestly don't know. As long as it happens AFTER I have retired I will be happy.

"Beam us translators up, Scotty!"


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TwArg  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:05
English to Spanish
Soon enough... Oct 8, 2007

I believe we as translators will become extinct in 10 or 15 years.
Let's picture a software for online translations. You write "I go to Amazon..." and then the software interrupts asking:
- Do you mean Amazon the river or Amazon the website?
Some serious companies are working in the Semantic Web. Do not discard that they will take care of most translations in a short period....


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Fernando D. Walker  Identity Verified

Local time: 05:05
English to Spanish
+ ...
Of course, not! Oct 8, 2007

I don’t think machines will be able to replace us. Translation is beyond transferring the meaning of words into a different language. You need to interpret what words mean. Do you think a machine can do that? I don’t think so.
Best,
Fernando


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:05
German to English
+ ...
Pull the other one, it's got bells on Oct 8, 2007

I can just imagine the wondercomputer chuckling to itself before spewing out a perfect, context-sensitive translation of this line in fifty-three different languages
(i.e. "Pull the other one, it's got bells on").
Perhaps the computer will give me a mouthful of abuse before it does so. It certainly ought to feel insulted, b'cos I don't give it the respect it thinks it deserves.

(British humour warning: my sentence is an extension of the idiom "You're pulling my leg", which means "You are making fun of me").


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Darin Fitzpatrick  Identity Verified
United States
Member (2006)
German to English
Not just translation... Oct 8, 2007

In every field of endeavor, machines have been used to make work easier. Although some jobs have been "lost" to automation, all human activity is still just that, human activity.

Machine translation will make translators more and more productive, but some human input will always be needed, both to create and improve the programs, and to apply them.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 05:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
Don't knock it - at least, not too quickly! Oct 8, 2007

Victor Dewsbery wrote:

I can just imagine the wondercomputer chuckling to itself before spewing out a perfect, context-sensitive translation of this line in fifty-three different languages
(i.e. "Pull the other one, it's got bells on").


Before we knock MT's likely performance when faced with the intricacies of traditional British humour I wonder if, with the collaboration of all Proz.com's human members and users, we could ever come up with 'perfect, context-sensitive translations of "Pull the other one, it's got bells on" in fifty-three different languages'.

Perhaps this could be the source text for the next Proz.com translation contest? And maybe all known MT tools (and their human progenitors) could be invited to participate as 'guest players'.

MediaMatrix


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S&L  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:05
English to Polish
+ ...
Never say never. Oct 8, 2007

That's one thing Second - AFAIK there already exist systems, which can be "thought" knowledge from a certain field and then utilise it. For example, medical programs, that can give diagnosis, based on the symptoms. The only difference between those systems and human doctors is, that they (the machines) hardly ever (if ever) make mistakes. In fact, all of the things like experience or intuition, are based on information stored in our head, therefore can be input into a computer and analysed by it.

I would really want to say "no", that translating is art and could never be done 100% by computers... but I don't think anyone can say that


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Agnieszka Hayward
Poland
Local time: 10:05
German to Polish
+ ...
Other Oct 8, 2007

I replied "other", as I felt like not giving the obvious answer today.

Regards to all!


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Kevin Kaland  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:05
Spanish to English
+ ...
I don't think so Oct 8, 2007

I put no...I think that to really speak a language involves a lot more than just having enough information...the computer would have to have emotion and be able to sense tone and style in writing automatically...and this can vary depending on the writer himself or herself!

Plus, there's lots of things about human beings we don't understand...and we can't program what we don't understand.

I do think that for technical translations or ones without need for tone or style that computer translation will come quite far.

Beyond that? Well maybe one of those computers that really has a translator inside could do it...;)

Kevin


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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:05
German to English
+ ...
What's in a context? Oct 8, 2007

mediamatrix wrote:
Before we knock MT's likely performance when faced with the intricacies of traditional British humour I wonder if, with the collaboration of all Proz.com's human members and users, we could ever come up with 'perfect, context-sensitive translations of "Pull the other one, it's got bells on" in fifty-three different languages'.

Fair point - up to a point.
But the rub is in the context. What is the phrase used for?
In this discussion (I admit) I only used it as an artificial trick question.
But "in the wild" it would be used as a very vernacular device to express a combination of surprise, unbelief and amusement (or allied sentiments). So a "context-sensitive" rendering is possible - it will be a similarly vernacular phrase which uses different imagery.

A couple of English equivalents that come to mind (depending on context and the register of the text):

... and pigs might fly.
That's completely off the wall.
Believe that and you'll believe anything.

Over 120 people have already voted to show their belief that MT will replace human translation ENTIRELY. (Some expect it sooner, others later).
I find this belief in the linguistic creativity of computers absolutely astounding. In view of the estimated total of more than 5,000 languages on the face of the earth, I find it hard to swallow the fact that over 120 intelligent linguists believe that computers will handle languages so thoroughly (at some point) that no human translator will ever have anything to do in any subject area and in any language pair in the whole world.

[Edited at 2007-10-08 19:53]


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