Google admits its translation engines are not perfect and not yet ready for "sensitive debates"

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Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:35
Chinese to English
+ ...
Shocking Jan 25, 2011

If Google Translate really is better than all the others, then I’d say machine translation is pretty useless.

Two years ago, I happened to come across a blog entry whose author was using Google Translate (I had the suspicion, I tried to test my theory by doing a translation in Google Translate, and what I got from Google Translate matched what I saw). A sentence in English had been translated to something in Chinese with the exact opposite meaning.

So I’ve just repeated the experiment, and Google Translate is still translating my little test sentence to something that means the exact opposite of what it is supposed to mean, even though the grammatical structure in question is quite simple and common (use of “do” for emphasis).

I would say this kind of translation is pretty unreliable.

[Edited at 2011-01-26 00:11 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 08:35
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Typical of journalists to skew the facts Jan 26, 2011

Heading: Google *admits*
Body text: Google *warns*

People who don't read the body text but merely glance at the headings will get an entirely different idea of what had really happened. This is worse than what happens when people get the wrong messagse when they read a machine translation instead of a human translation.


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Aude Sylvain  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:35
English to French
+ ...
GT and negative forms Jan 26, 2011

Ambrose Li wrote:

A sentence in English had been translated to something in Chinese with the exact opposite meaning.

So I’ve just repeated the experiment, and Google Translate is still translating my little test sentence to something that means the exact opposite of what it is supposed to mean, even though the grammatical structure in question is quite simple and common (use of “do” for emphasis).

I would say this kind of translation is pretty unreliable.

[Edited at 2011-01-26 00:11 GMT]


This issue happens in other languages I think, even though I do not know if this is due to the same cause as in Chinese,

In ENFR at least, I've made the test several times and GT often misses the negative forms.

Indeed the result is that the automated translation says exactly the opposite of the source.


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Aude Sylvain  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:35
English to French
+ ...
- Jan 26, 2011

Samuel Murray wrote:

Heading: Google *admits*
Body text: Google *warns*

People who don't read the body text but merely glance at the headings will get an entirely different idea of what had really happened.


Couldn't agree more!


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:35
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Google translate can be harmful to your health Jan 26, 2011

There was a great article in this month's Chronicle by Nicholas Hartmann in which he suggested the following:
"...Consider a one-paragraph medical report that has been translated into English. The concluding phrase of the translation reads: "..., the review group unanimously recommends that Mr. N not be subjected to a complete frontal lobotomy." If that entire 100-word paragraph contained only a single error involving one letter of one word, the translation could still be considered more than 99% accurate, but if the error resulted in the word "not" being changed to "now", the result would also be 100% wrong. If the person sending the translated report to the surgeon were unable to read English, that tiny but pivotal mistake would go completely undetected..."

And those of us who have experimented with GT, have seen how it sometimes misses a negative.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:35
French to German
+ ...
Lots of them... Jan 26, 2011

Aude Sylvain wrote:

This issue happens in other languages I think, even though I do not know if this is due to the same cause as in Chinese,

In ENFR at least, I've made the test several times and GT often misses the negative forms.

Indeed the result is that the automated translation says exactly the opposite of the source.


The same applies to FR>DE, DE>FR and EN>DE. One should not use GT for translating legal documents, for example, or for any kind of longish sentences.


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Sarah Elizabeth
Italy
Local time: 08:35
Italian to English
Lots and lots of them, so it appears (add ITA>ENG to the list) Jan 26, 2011

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:

Aude Sylvain wrote:

This issue happens in other languages I think, even though I do not know if this is due to the same cause as in Chinese,

In ENFR at least, I've made the test several times and GT often misses the negative forms.

Indeed the result is that the automated translation says exactly the opposite of the source.


The same applies to FR>DE, DE>FR and EN>DE. One should not use GT for translating legal documents, for example, or for any kind of longish sentences.


It is the same with Italian into English. The program misses negatives, but also mangles positives. My experience with it is with the results of a survey given to Italian doctors about the quality of medical equipment used in hospitals and particularly emergency departments. Almost without exception, whenever a doctor states that a product is good at something, this is mysteriously translated as that product being bad at that thing. And when a doctor states that a product is bad, it is translated into being good. This would be amusing (i.e., this product is reliable because it breaks frequently), except that it is to do with life-saving medical equipment.

And more importantly, my mildly humorous example above is clearly nonsense, but a greater number of the reversed negatives/reversed positives do not betray the fact that they are mistranslations.

[Edited at 2011-01-26 15:49 GMT]


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Ambrose Li  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 02:35
Chinese to English
+ ...
At least we now know why Jan 27, 2011

I have always wondered why GT is mistranslating such common things as dates, times, indirect questions, and our friend the emphatic “do”. So at least we now know why: If GT is using statistical analysis to do the translation, then it’s clear that there’s no way it will ever be able to translate everything correctly.

[Edited at 2011-01-27 06:01 GMT]


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Helena Marko
Slovenia
Local time: 08:35
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Google Translate is good for your health - it makes you laugh! Jan 27, 2011

Google Translate is so useless for translations into/from Slovene that a translator can use it as a source of entertainment while doing the real thing

I think this is excellent. It leaves that little work that we have over here to us, humans

[Edited at 2011-01-27 18:25 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-01-27 18:26 GMT]


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Piotr Bienkowski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 08:35
Member (2005)
English to Polish
+ ...
GT translate is harmful when used by people without brains Jan 29, 2011

Admittedly GT has a problem with negations. I have seen it myself.

But GT is not a brain replacement. It can be used by people with brains.

PB


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 13:35
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Benefits to those financially unblessed Jan 30, 2011

Many users cannot pay high fee for good translation/interpretation. Increasing roles of Google Translate to them are noteworthy. MT can be a laughing material but a very critical tool to many users in this computerized epoch. Let's seek cleverly (e.g. similar to how to use of Google Internet Search) how it can help use, the professional linguists.

Soonthon Lupkitaro


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Jan 30, 2011

I hope the people who feed KudoZ questions into Google Translate and then post completely wrong answers are reading this!

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Justin Peterson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 08:35
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
Worthless Without A Professional to Correct the Results... but not Worthless Feb 1, 2011

I was very skeptical about GT4T and other such tools, but I gave it a chance. Now, it certainly is not going to render human translators obsolete, but it can increase productivity, and it is surprisingly good at translating simple texts. The translated text must be carefully compared to the original, and a professional translator is necessary for this task, but if it can boost productivity by even 10%, that can mean a big difference at the end of a month or year. Now, a good translator will also review to vary the style and introduce stylistic touches. But even with this task it can be worth using it. It is far from replacing the translator, but it can be a powerful tool.

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Halil Ibrahim Tutuncuoglu "Бёcäטsع Լîfe's cômplicåtعd eñøugh"
Turkey
Local time: 09:35
Turkish to English
+ ...
Lost Feb 2, 2011

Lost in (automatic) translation

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 08:35
English to Croatian
+ ...
Not sure about Chinese Feb 2, 2011

Ambrose Li wrote:

I have always wondered why GT is mistranslating such common things as dates, times, indirect questions, and our friend the emphatic “do”. So at least we now know why: If GT is using statistical analysis to do the translation, then it’s clear that there’s no way it will ever be able to translate everything correctly.

[Edited at 2011-01-27 06:01 GMT]


...and generally I can't really talk about Asian languages as they have totally different language systems.

In my language, and most Euro languages, GT will do well on the level of very simple short clauses consisting only of subject and predicate ( for SVO languages). Also, it won't fail with very common words from objective reality or with common grammatical tendencies. Same goes for simple noun phrases.

However, if you have idiomatic sentence or if sentence is expanding further than this, the problems and twisted meanings begin.

Of course this doesn't mean it's 100% reliable in the former case either, it just means that it will mostly give an accurate result.


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Google admits its translation engines are not perfect and not yet ready for "sensitive debates"

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